Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Trash-Free Parks: Friend or Foe?

Just last week I went on a Maryland Park Quest over at Sandy Point State Park.  Given I wrote about the Park Quests of Maryland left, right, and then some last summer, it's been a virtual drought this summer.  With multiple road trips, training for my Susan G. Komen 3 Day walk, and this-that-and-the-other, this summer I am severely behind schedule with my Park Quests!

But Sandy Point was a very delightful Park Quest, and it was there that I was struck with a new concept...just as I was struck at Deep Creek State Park a few weeks ago.  The "Trash Free Park."  Apparently, Maryland's State Forests and Parks are making the shift to being "Trash Free," which means they have removed their trash cans in favor of promoting waste reduction and park aesthetics .  Supposedly this will "improve the appearance of the park and...ensure a more enjoyable experience for you."  It is following the "Leave No Trace" policy, meaning you are going to leave nature the way Mother Nature intended it, with no evidence that you've been there.

From the Maryland Department of Natural Resources page:

"Maryland's Parks Are Trash-Free:  In order to promote and encourage recycling, reduction of waste and reuse of our resources, all trash barrels, receptacles and dumpsters have been removed from picnic and beach areas. Visitors to day-use areas are provided with bags when they enter parks and are asked to take home their own refuse. Please pack your picnic in reusable containers and help us keep our parks clean."
Ohhhh-kay.....good on paper, but in my little belief system I ponder the rationale from a consumer point of view. Especially since no bags were distributed upon my entrance at either park (though, Deep Creek did have a board near the concession stand with biodegradable bags posted. Yet, what if you don't happen upon this board and bag location?) 
Yes, Trash-Free Parks stresses the importance of taking trash/recycling with you when you leave.

Yes, it encourages us all to do our part.

Yes, by providing trash bags, there is a built in layer of stepping up, taking responsibility.

Yes, it gets rid of the "grody-groderton" bee-attracting trash bins.


What about me, who saw a bag of crud, tied to and suspended from a bush at the park.  I now no longer have anywhere to deposit it? 

What about the wayward granola bar wrappers, Capri Sun straw plastics, and left over cups that are lying on picnic benches?

What about the dog owners who bring their pups to the park, scoop the proverbial poop, then are left with a full baggie with no where else for it to go?!!?  Most people are NOT going to want to put that in their car for the 20-60 mile ride home from the day trip to the state park.

I can and will tend to all my stuff.  But what are the odds that "Joe Park-Goer" has the same level of eco-warrior-ism in him as I have in me?  How do we know that by doing this, it ultimately doesn't make things worse?!

This plan assumes the best in citizens, which is an optimistic, whole-hearted, fantastic approach.  Perhaps I'm now becoming too jaded in my old age, and I'm not feeling like people innately recycle and tend to their trash. To me, it feels a little bit like "throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

My hope: That I'm wrong. That people will step up, and do the right thing!  But, perhaps until that's a guarantee, perhaps Maryland might want to return one or so of those trash bins!  While we're at it, let's throw in a recycling bin or two!

Trash free sign from my camera Aug. 19, 2011, "Trash Free Maryland" pic from http://www.trashfreemaryland.org/

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