"Some People Just Don't Give a HOOT" by Joe Azze

First off, thank you to everyone who helps keep our parks and neighborhoods clean by either volunteering their time to pick up litter left by others or helps to educate kids & adults about the Leave No Trace Principles and the Carry In Carry Out policy. Unfortunately we no longer have Woodsy the Owl to help us so it’s up to us.

Just about every time we are on the trails or in and around our parks, we see trash littered along the sides of the road and spread throughout the trails, particular the trails closest to a trailhead or parking lot. This is more so in the New York & New Jersey area, which is very populated. It’s great seeing people and families out enjoying the parks but it seems so many ignore the simple fact that littering is very disrespectful to the wildlife, our Park Rangers, Trail Stewards, volunteers and to others that enjoy an escape into the woods.  

Just a couple of weekends ago, Harriman State Park of New York was overrun with visitors. At about midday the park closed off sections and lakes because of overcrowding. This left many with nowhere to go. They drove up and down Seven Lakes Drive (a beautiful 14 mile stretch of road that goes through HSP) looking for areas to park and enjoy the day. There were none. All parking lots were full, so they illegally parked along the sides of the roads and this is where I found a lot of trash that was left without a care for the negative impact it would have on others and the wildlife that calls this area home.

When I headed out for my ride on Monday 7.10.17, I Knew that I was going to be pretty disappointed. The past weekend was a very busy time for Harriman State Park and for all State & National Parks. I had to approach several people asking them to discard and recycle their garbage properly. See video below.

Ali Bauman of CBS News has been monitoring the situation. I was able to contribute some videos and pictures to the feature that was aired live on Tuesday at 5pm. Thank you to CBS, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference and Ali for helping to bring attention and awareness to the littering! This is not just about our parks but about all parks and communities that have been experiencing a similar situation.

There is a lot that we can do to help and it can begin this coming Sunday, July 23rd at 8:30am, where the New York New Jersey Trail Conference is organizing a “Take Back The Trail: Litter Clean Up” at Pine Meadow Lake in HSP. Be sure to register through the link provided so the NYNJTC knows to expect you. Thanks!

Picking up after others is never a fun experience, it’s rather upsetting to know that some people just don’t give a HOOT. However, we can also help to educate park visitors about the importance of keeping the State & National Parks trails, streams, lakes, rivers and mountains clean and free of litter. This can be done by politely passing along the information to others so that they are aware that an area has a Carry In Carry Out policy and we should always follow the Leave No Trace 7 Principles.

There is some concern with the Carry In Carry Out Policy as some parks completely eliminate waste baskets, trash cans and dumpsters. Sometimes this works and then sometimes people still just don’t give a hoot... HSP has just a few dumpsters and garbage cans that are regularly checked and the contents are disposed of properly but this only works when a majority of the visitors follow the Carry In Carry Out Policy. This is a very simple policy to follow, see below.

  • Bring only reusable bottles and containers.
  • Don’t bring more then you need so prepare properly at home.
  • Use a properly fitted backpack to carry your things and has a separate bag within it to place your trash in.
  • Whatever you bring with you, leaves with you.
  • Follow the Leave No Trace Principles below.  

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
  • In popular areas:
  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
  • In pristine areas:
  • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

(copyright) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.

Whenever someone litters it posses a threat to both us and wildlife. There are way to many instances of turtles wrapped in plastic choking them off from growth and life or a whale that is in severe distress because it is entangled in a fishing net, the small mammal that has it's head caught in a can or the dead mammal that has eaten so much plastic and garbage it's stomach was filled with it. This is not just about keeping our trails and parks clean but about minimizing garbage in general and putting more effort into recycling. Please feel free to share this article. Thanks!

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