Save Our Bosque Task Force volunteers cleaned up about two dozen hypodermic needles, 22 bags of trash, a soggy mattress and a working shopping cart last Saturday.

Christie Smith, the secretary of SOBTF, said it was the biggest trash mess they’ve ever picked up, “four people did all the work, it’s actually quite inspiring that so few people managed to do all this in a hour and a half.”

Smith said that, normally, they only do a clean-up once a month, but they decided to call for a special clean-up day to get rid of a large hidden encampment they discovered during their last pick-up. The trashed area was west of the dirt road north of Otero Park.

“There was a complete mess down there,” said Smith. “It’s enormous and much bigger than usual.”

Smith said she believes the encampment was established about three years ago but has been abandoned for at least a year. She has noticed that they haven’t been finding as many homeless encampments as they did in the past and thinks the development of trails, picnic areas and signage has helped prevent dumping.

“I really do think that the combination of Rob Selina and Dave Burleigh putting up more Carsonite signs, which indicate that there are bike trails along the river, and our monthly pick-ups are making people see that these parks are not a ‘no man’s land’ and are less likely to dump,” Smith said.

The SOBTF was formed as a nonprofit in 1994 by citizens of Socorro County concerned about the impacts of dumping, off-road vehicle use and illegal activities on the ecosystem along the Rio Grande Bosque.

Their projects and programs support habitat protection and restoration, including encouraging native species and removal of invasive species. They organize community outreach/education and create partnerships with other groups interested in conservation. They started doing trash clean up days monthly since November 2022.

The Save Our Bosque Task Force meets the second Saturday of every month. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Christie at (708) 269-7147