Anglers and nature lovers along Summit County’s rivers and streams this summer might notice a new effort to reduce harmful trash.
Summit High School student Jordan Nelson built 30 bins for collecting fishing line, and in June, he installed them at the county’s most popular fishing spots. He also plans to put one in every fly shop.
Jordan, 17, of Silverthorne, read last fall that the Forest Service was placing bins around Dillon Reservoir to send monofilament to be recycled. Officials wanted to reduce waste that takes a long time to biodegrade and often kills fish, birds and other wildlife.
He contacted wildlife biologist Ashley Nettles with the Dillon Ranger District and learned that Forest Service officials didn’t have the resources to add as many bins as they would have liked.
So Jordan adopted the task for his Eagle Scout project and doubled the amount of recycling bins the Forest Service installed.
“I’m a big fisher myself,” he said, “so it’s definitely just a good thing to know what I’m doing is helping what I enjoy doing.”
He partnered with the Gore Range chapter of Trout Unlimited, a national organization dedicated to protecting coldwater fisheries and watersheds. The nonprofit donated $500 to the Forest Service for Jordan to buy supplies and helped him figure out where to put the bins.
“Protecting and enhancing our riparian habitat is critical” and especially important in Summit County, said Sarah Barclay, president of Trout Unlimited.
Jordan made the bins with the help of his fellow Boy Scouts in Troop 40 in Frisco, a local Cub Scout troop, and the students in his stream ecology class.
They’re made from PVC pipe, he said. “It’s nothing too special.”
Jordan also worked with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Summit County Open Space and Trails to place the bins on public lands.
“This project just kept growing,” said Debbie Nelson, Jordan Nelson’s mother. “He had a good time doing it.”
Jordan said he was excited to see people already using the bins. He checked one at the North Pond in Silverthorne a week after installing it and found a few wads of fishing line.
Jordan also held a cleanup day Saturday, May 31, at the Giberson Bay recreational area in Frisco to pick up trash around the area.
He said he and 15 volunteers collected a large trash bag full of just fishing line from about a mile stretch along Dillon Reservoir. Then Jordan spent six hours removing hooks and weights from the line.
Once the line is collected, Nettles sends it off to be melted down and turned into things like tackle boxes.
“An unfortunate part of fishing is you lose line,” said Jason Marks, a Trout Unlimited member who helped Nelson with the project, “and it just kinda goes down river.”
“It’s a disaster. It’s a real problem,” he said, adding that he’s picked up “miles of that crap” while fishing in Summit County.
Marks said Jordan’s project will live on after he finishes school. The bins are simple, cheap and effective, he said, and they benefit the environment, the local community and tourism. “It’s good for everything.”
He hopes they encourage anglers to be responsible and take the initiative of retrieving fishing line, even if that means crossing a river or climbing a tree.
At Cutthroat Anglers, the employees fully support Nelson’s project, said fishing guide Eric Schoeny.
“It helps keep the environment clean because that line does not biodegrade very fast,” he said.
Schoeny said since Jordan put up the bins a few weeks ago and brought one to the shop, people have commented about how they are good for the rivers.
Trout Unlimited will help monitor some of the bins, Barclay said.
She added, “It’s very neat to see a young person so committed to conservation in our community.”