When an unexpectedly vicious Monday rainstorm shut down all access to Burning Man this year, the flow of traffic into Black Rock City came to a complete standstill. For a day and a night, the highways transformed into parking lots, then into campgrounds.
If you were one of the thousands stuck out there, your entire community salutes you. Sansa Asylum, manager of the DPW Highway Cleanup crew, salutes you too: This year, even with the delays, the roadsides were cleaner than ever before.
“People are gaining awareness, and that’s making it better,” Sansa told me. “People we talked to in the local towns agreed that the trash wasn’t as bad this year. We even talked to the local judge in Wadsworth, and he had nothing but good things to say.”
Sansa is a circus musician based in the Bay Area. For one week a year, however, she and a crew of twelve take on the dirty job of cleaning up the roadsides from Burning Man to Wadsworth, to Pyramid Lake, to Cedarville. Most of the Highway Cleanup crew are volunteers. These are not state employees; they don’t pull a paycheck from the Nevada DOT. They are artists and musicians; a seamstress; an event production coordinator; a rent board commissioner; members of other DPW crews, and people who pick up this task because they care about doing it right.
“We’re looking for patterns,” Sansa says. “We want to strategize how to have the highway not get trashed.” Education is a big factor in the recent improvement — now that the Burning Man community is learning to tie down our trash bags, there are far fewer “blowouts” of trash strewn throughout the sagebrush. But this year brought new trends.
The first big trend for 2014: bags of poop. That’s human feces, in bags, undoubtedly left behind by the people who were forced to camp along the embankments. Solution: don’t do that. As gross as it is, save your poop in a sealed container, and dump it in a potty when you reach one. If you moop your poop, somebody else will have to touch it. Ick.
The second, more surprising 2014 trend: hexayurts. Large numbers of broken hexayurt panels wound up littering the highway, scattering little bits of styrofoam through the sage. Solution: Strap your hexayurt panels more carefully, so they won’t bend and break when you hit highway speeds.
“Wrap your yurts! They fly away, and once it hits the sagebrush, it’s over,” says Ninjalina, Highway Cleanup Assistant Manager. The prickly branches catch bits of foam and wood as they blow past in the wind, creating an extended trail of littered brush.
“My truck alone picked up 64 contractor bags of trash, 30 tires, 20 yurt panels and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff,” Ninjalina says.
Over the four-day period of heaviest work, there are three trucks running 180 miles of highway. In total, the crew gathered 24 pickup beds’ worth of roadside detritus.
Highway Cleanup began out of respect for local communities, who were tired of their environment being littered with Burner detritus. But once the highways empty of Burning Man traffic, this desert landscape is still full with more than just human life. On one of the last days of Highway Cleanup this year, Ninjalina and crew found their vehicles engulfed by a commuting herd of cows:
Moop Map, Day 1 results
And now with no further ado, the results you’ve been waiting for. It is my great pleasure to share with you the very first peek at the Black Rock City Moop Map for 2014.
Great job so far, Black Rock City! This is the kind of start we love to see. Lots of green, green, green blocks. The DPW Playa Restoration crew thanks you for mooping your camps, making it easy for us to support your efforts and ensure the city is moop-free in time for the upcoming BLM inspection. Your dedication to Leaving No Trace is what makes it possible for Burning Man to keep coming back to the playa, year after moop-free year!
We’re not posting details of what was found in each spot. If you are a theme camp, your Placement representative may have more detailed information for you in a few months (when the entire Moop Map is finalized). Please be patient: we have much more work to do before we can pass detailed information along.
Stay tuned for more, as the moop line marches through the streets of BRC. We’ll keep posting the results just as quickly as we can compile them.