September 30, 2009

Volunteers gather at Poste Homestead

By Kurt Schauppner
The Desert Trail

The cleanup at the Poste Homestead on Saturday, Sept. 26 was one of 82 statewide projects undertaken as part of National Public Lands Day. (Trail photo by Kurt Schauppner)

WONDER VALLEY — With about 75 participants doing everything from picking up the remains of a burned-out trailer to managing trails to putting up a kiosk and signs, the cleanup project at the Poste Homestead Site on Saturday, Sept. 26 was called a success.

Organized by the Bureau of Land Management with help from several lo-cal groups, including Community ORV Watch, the cleanup was one of 82 projects scheduled around California for National Public Lands Day.

In addition to the satisfaction of helping clean up an historic site, participants received T-shirts, lunch and a mini concert at Palms Restaurant in Wonder Valley.

Another project took people into Joshua Tree National Park to pick up litter, restore trails and make paper pots for Arid Land Restoration.

Mickey Quillman, one of the BLM organizers, said Saturday morning that he and Phil Klasky from Community ORV Watch did some restoration work at the homestead site about six months ago.

“We applaud the BLM and all the groups who came out to clean up and protect this special community resource,” Klasky said Saturday.

He said he thought about holding his office’s National Public Lands Day project somewhere else but added that the people of Wonder Valley convinced him otherwise.

“The people here care,” he said, adding that across the nation some 130,000 people were expected to take part in National Public Lands Day events.

We’ll do some great things today,” Klasky said.

After gathering at the Palms Restaurant a few miles from the homestead site and getting a quick safety briefing — wear gloves and decent shoes, watch out for critters, keep an eye on the kids — volunteers caravanned to the homestead for a morning of hard work.

Diana Akins, pausing between carrying handfuls of trash to a large Dumpster, said she took part in the project to help the community and because of her own memories of the homestead site.

“We used to use the place as a picnic for the kids,” she said. “It’s just gone to heck.”

Mickey Quillman’s wife, Mari, paused between carrying bundles of dried twigs to camouflage an illegal trail to say she was using the day in part as a learning opportunity.

“I am a wildlife biologist,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to do this. I am doing some mine restoration at the Mojave National Preserve and will be looking to close some trails.”

Pauline Dargis drove out from Twentynine Palms to take part in the project after hearing about it on the radio.

“I’ve never actually been out here,” Wonder Valley resident Richard Gosin said while raking a trail.

“I’ve been a weekender since the 1970s,” he said, adding that he still remembers the advertising slogan “blue skies, good water, clean air, sunshine” that drew him out to the area.

BLM Archaeologist Jim Shearer spent part of his time at the homestead removing what was left of the original homestead’s roof.

Time and the elements had made it a safety hazard, he said.

“It’s good, it’s good exercise, great people,” volunteer Chris Carraher said. “You really see, by the end of the day, a big difference.

“We live here right at the edge of the wild desert. This establishes not only the wild values but also the historical values and how that all comes together.”