Monday, February 29, 2016

Bah Humbug!

By Beth Sullivan
As we come to the end of the month of February, we start to breathe a little easier. Maybe the back of winter has been broken. We may still get snow, but it will melt quickly. The recent warmth and rains have nearly banished the big banks of dirty snow and ice along the roadsides.
It takes effort to keep the trails so beautiful. 

Revealing … litter and trash as far as the eye can see.
What it is about a coffee cup that it cannot stay in a car for a few miles until a destination is reached? I tried to mentally tally the great variety of places serving coffee within a specified distance from North Main Street, and I couldn’t keep track. Dozens? Plastic, styrofoam, coated paper.
Water bottles? Soda in plastic or glass? Gatorade? Lots of Gatorade bottles. Why can’t they stay in a car?
Beer cans? There are more brands and interesting labels than I ever knew. I could start a collection.
Liquor bottles, big ones and little ones.
Dumping garden debris can introduce invasive species to a nature preserve.

Then all the paper and plastic wrappers and bags, from snacks, candy, sandwiches, doughnuts, and pizzas. What happens to an animal that comes along to investigate a sandwich wrapper and ends up with a wad of plastic in its digestive system?
I just don’t understand.
Part of our stewardship job is to do roadside clean up along our preserves. If the towns had to pay workers to clean up, it would be our tax dollars being wasted.

Nocturnal visitors - not welcome

Some of our preserves have off-street parking. These are small lots provided to make it easier and safer for hikers instead of parking along the roadside. They are not meant to be easier for those who want to park after hours, drink, party or rendezvous! Technically our preserves are closed at dusk. But what the morning light brings is pretty interesting. Items range from the usual food and drink, to occasional items of clothing! Who would leave the area without pants and a coat in the middle of winter?
A trash-filled party camp in the woods. Photograph by Rusty Morrison.

Then there are the special items: upholstered chairs, televisions, shelving units, mattresses, and once, even an entire toilet and tank! Maybe over time, someone was thinking of setting up a permanent home? Who do they think is going to come along and lift these things up and out? Not all of us are blessed with a pickup truck and a partner with muscles and patience to be running around cleaning up!
Just hard to understand.
We are lucky to have willing, strong stewards and a truck to help when needed.
Maybe they wanted some place to watch the TVs?

Sometimes the worst items are smaller, seemingly innocuous, yet contain toxic materials. Gas and oil, paint, containers that are aerosols, sealants and stains. A bottle of nail polish remover found empty along a stream. Where did the contents go? Did gas and oil leach into the soil? Get into the waterways? Who and what is downstream? There are designated hazardous waste days all around the area.
Just one of several bedding items found over the last few years.

A pet peeve may be a home owner, whose property adjoins a preserve, who feels it is just fine to dump leaves and yard waste over the wall. It may be organic, but it is a violation. And even worse are those who dump their trash, flower pots, outdoor furniture, broken tools, old kids’ toys over the wall, out of sight, out of their sight. But not out of ours.
Over the wall is just too easy for some people. Feet deep and years old, including a plastic Christmas tree.

Cleaning up is now required

Sadly, as stewards, we now have to walk with collection bags and heavy gloves, to pick up as we go. We now have to have work parties dedicated to cleaning up party camps in the woods.
It would be a lot nicer to be able to concentrate on the beauty of the preserve we try and protect.
Sorry for the Grinch tone…we have spent way too many precious hours, walking boundaries, volunteering as stewards of the lands, only to waste time on cleaning up the messes of others. I am sure this is “preaching to the choir” as readers of a blog like this are likely to already know what I am talking about. I am sure you already are part of the volunteer clean-up effort. Thank you.
I am looking forward to spring, and walking the trails, being a good steward of our beautiful lands.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.
There is a hazardous waste collection site near you.

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