Pack It In/Pack It Out

pack it inMore and more parks across the country are moving to a policy of encouraging people to take their trash home with them. This is always a good policy. In the case of the parks it is also a cost saving measure resulting from the decision of many local, state, and national jurisdictions not to fund our parks sufficiently. It is also partly due to the increasing volume of trash we generate. Keeping our parks clean has become a major challenge.

trash on trailSo I get that. I have no problem taking my trash home. But for some reason many of us do not understand the need to do this. I took this picture recently on my way into a park. A picture is worth a thousand words. My companion was quick to condemn the park service. I was surprised. She felt there should be either better service or more signage about the need to pack out your trash.

Well okay, both would be nice but both cost money. It is far easier and cheaper in the long run if we just packed out our trash. What I don’t understand is that when there are no trash cans, or when the cans are full as is the case in the photo – then it should be obvious that we need to take our trash home or to a proper disposal site.

bottles in PatapscoI also wondered why so many people left plastic bottles at a pet waste station? These are a great convenience to pet owners not to have to carry pet waste around with you all day.  But then to leave plastic bottles here as well….What if a strong wind comes up or a heavy rainstorm? All these loose bags and bottles would end up in our streams! This is another picture that I took farther downstream on this same river.

I will contact the park service and suggest they have better signage. That will cost time and money that could be better spent on maintain and restoring the habitat within the park. But I also hope more people will think about what happens to their trash before they discard it along the path.

P.S. A volunteer ranger friend of mind said that he was asked to come in over the Thanksgiving holiday to empty the pet waste boxes. They did not have adequate staff so had to rely on the volunteer. He did. Not a way I would want to spend my holiday.

Take-a-way: We all need to think about our trash – and where it goes – especially when we are out in nature.

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