Rail firms work to take dumping on Vallejo tracks to next station
By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer / Posted: 03/07/2013 01:04:53 AM PST Trash along Vallejo's railroad tracks can seem like a freight train when there's no end in sight. It's a problem that's gotten so bad that Mare Island Railroad vice president Rydel Peterson said he and his staff devote at least one entire day per week picking up trash and hauling away items. Peterson said he and his employees have hauled away so many discarded tires that Solano County now wants him to obtain a permit to dispose of them. "On a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 9," Peterson said. "We're expending a fair amount of money, time and effort dealing with disrespectful people." City of Vallejo staff also said the problem with illegal dumping along Vallejo's miles of railroad tracks has worsened. "We do get a number of complaints," Vallejo Code Enforcement Manager Nimat Shakoor-Grantham said. "We do a lot, but we need to do more." Old mattresses, roof shingles, bags of human waste, and common household trash are just some items Mare Island Railroad picks up along its tracks, Peterson said. Mare Island Railroad and the city are also working together to deal with a homeless encampment near the tracks at Sacramento Street, he said. The Mare Island Railroad company runs trains on tracks that extend from Broadway and Tuolumne Streets to a little beyond the Mare Island Causeway, he said. On another rail segment, near Florida and Amador streets, an enormous pile of household trash got dumped out of sight and behind colorfully painted k-rails. The trash is across the street from the Vallejo Little League fields. Resident Julie Rose said that nearly every day she and her dogs walk past this big mess, and other trashy areas along the railroad tracks. "It's a magnet for garbage," Rose said. "It's blight. It's terrible." Just a few months on the job, new Code Enforcement Officer David Sidie said dumping is common on the railroad tracks, but the city can only do so much. The tracks and surrounding property belong to various railroad companies and considered private property, he said. Overgrown vegetation, dim lighting and areas out of sight from street views often hide illegal dumpers, he said. "In some areas you can hide your entire vehicle to do as much dumping as you wish," Sidie said. "Somebody is just backing up to the barrier and unloading and them leaving." When complaints about dumping on the tracks are lodged, the city contacts either Mare Island Railroad or California Northern Railroad to report it, ask that it be cleaned up. Wednesday, California Northern Railroad, which owns another rail segment in Vallejo, did just that. Rail staff evicted a homeless person who had moved into a vacant switch box in the 1100 block of Louisiana Street. They also hauled away about 20 bags of trash and other items, including buckets used for human waste, Sidie said. Though strong odors still permeated the vicinity, the area looked cleaner and the switch box was sealed off Wednesday afternoon. However, just a few yards away, other piles of trash were evident. Ideally, these areas would get cleaned up as quickly as possible to send a message to transients and others that dumping won't be tolerated, Sidie said. California Northern marketing manager Jeff Golian said the company goes through Vallejo about twice a year cleaning up trash, and also works with the city in responding to specific complaints. "We do the best we can. We don't have a lot of business down there," Golian said, referring to the virtual lack of train service on tracks that run south of Flosden Acres near the city's border with American Canyon. Meanwhile, Shakoor-Grantham said the city should coordinate regular clean-up activities with the railroad companies as part of the overall effort to clean up the city. Mare Island Railroad's Peterson said "No Trespassing" signs and other signs saying "No Dumping" have helped reduce the amount of trash, but the problem is never ending. He blames the illegal dumping on overall low morale in Vallejo due to the economy, joblessness and lingering effects of Mare Island Naval Shipyard's closure. "It's a bigger problem than just trash on the tracks," he said. Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.