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Dirt is available

Linda Hiller

Two contradictory – yet potentially complimentary – scenarios are taking place in the Valley this year.

In the first setting, gardeners with bad, sandy, rocky soil are starting down at the ground, trying to will their flowers or grass to grow in sub-standard medium. How about going for a no-landscape-back to nature look? they’re asking themselves.

In the second scenario, people in previously flooded areas are staring at huge piles of washed-in dirt, wondering how they could possibly get rid of it all. Should they redesign their yards to make it look like they ment to have mounds? they’re pondering.

There is a possible solution to these two dilemmas – people wanting dirt should go get some from people wanting to get rid of it. Soil symbiosis in Douglas County.

Many of the residents in the badly-flooded neighborhoods around the Carson Valley Golf Course are in a position to “share their dirt.” Although literally tons of the mixed topsoil has already been hauled out of the area, and although some neighbors are using their dirt to build berms around their own properties, plenty of soil is still available.

“We would love to get rid of it,” said E-Ann Logan, whose back yard faces the south end of the golf course and must have resembled the bow of a ship when the waters came last January.

“Last week the volunteer contractors came in and took out 68 dump truck loads,” she said. “They barely made a dent.”

Douglas County volunteer coordinator, Pam Jenkins has been calling many of the lower Ranchos residents to inform them of the possibility of giving their excess dirt to soil-deprived Valley residents. Many people will be placing “FREE DIRT” signs on their unwanted mounds, she said.

Anyone wanting dirt can call the Logans at 265-2889, or Jenkins at 782-6288. Or, go into the Carson Valley Golf Course neighborhood, located off Riverview in the Gardnerville Ranchos, and look for the signs or find likely-looking dirt piles and inquire as to their availability.

Remember that these residents have been through a lot in the past three months and deserve respectful, considerate treatment.

n Be polite. If you see any dirt piles that look available, be sure to ask nearby residents if it is ok to take.

n Don’t be afraid to ask. As you’ll notice, there is still a great bustle of repair activity going on in these neighborhoods, and it may look like workers are too busy to be bothered, but go ahead and inquire.

n Don’t forget Mitch Drive. Up Riverview to Dresslerville and left on Mitch, you’ll see acres of dirt piles (and debris – lots of firewood) from the flood. The area has been closed to dumping as of last Sunday, but anyone is welcome to take what they need, according to Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District manager, Bob Spellberg.

Anyone with questions about the cleanliness of the dirt should relax, according to Dick Post, horticulture specialist with the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension.

“As long as there’s not something like oil in the soil – and you can smell that – any other remnants of the flood shouldn’t be a problem,” he said, adding that organic matter would be a good addition to any soil you bring into your garden.

“It is probably a fairly silty soil, with maybe some clay mixed in, and adding compost would make it very usable,” he said.

“As far as any septic-type contamination, by the time it got very far, it should have been destroyed. Besides, anything organic like that would break down rather quickly.”

Spellberg said that after the flood, water samples were taken at the three wells around the flood area in the Ranchos, and no contamination was found.

Jenkins said farmers and ranchers are also welcome to use any and all of the dirt for shoring up their irrigation ditches or any other purpose.

“We did have one rancher come in and get material for work on his irrigation system,” she said.

“You know, it’s a shame we couldn’t just take this dirt up to Autumn Hills and give it to those people who had their soil washed away by erosion after the fire,” Jenkins said, referring to the June 23, 1996 Autumn Hills fire.

On April 12, Jenkins is helping coordinate student and staff volunteers from Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School, who will be in the Carson Valley Golf Course neighborhood with their “Mud-a-thon.” School volunteers will again help residents continue to dig out.

Following that event, there may be even more dirt piles for hungry, desperate gardeners.