Monday I went for a motorcycle ride on Highway 87 north of Strawberry and I noticed a lot of trash along the road and all of it left over from a camping trip. At the safety turnouts just past the county line, there are more than a dozen large bags scattered as far as 100 yards from the main pile, which is probably a result of animals prowling through the mess, and the stench is noticeable from about 40 yards away.
The pile contains the usual stuff from camping, along with diapers and a plastic wash tub that was probably used for bathing a child. The amount of trash would indicate that either a large family, or a multiple family group, had spent at least a week in the forest.
I had to ask myself, “Why can’t people who use and enjoy our forest haul their trash to a dumpster and dispose of it properly?” The answer is simple: they are either just plain rude, inconsiderate and lazy, or, they are all of those things, and cheap to boot.
I am told that the local merchants who allow camping trash to be placed in their Dumpster may charge $1 per bag for that privilege, which apparently the tourists use as an excuse to either leave it in the forest or dump it along the highway.
This fact prompts another question: Why can’t we (or don’t we) as a community, provide Dumpsters located in convenient places so the visitors to our forest (and customers of our local merchants) will have a proper receptacle to dispose of their garbage?
This one small feature should encourage visitors to practice better behavior. However, knowing that some people will not willingly participate even if it is free, I suggest another feature be added to this program as a means to encourage good conduct, and that would be an absolutely outrageous fine, and, 100 hours of community service cleaning up the forest.
Further, I suggest that the clean up crew be required to work in the forest they dumped their trash in, and not anywhere else. For instance, a person caught dumping in the Tonto forest, must work in the Tonto forest to satisfy his or her community service, and likewise for the neighboring forests up here, and, the person must be responsible to show up for the work detail at his or her own expense, and they pay their own meals and lodging costs too.
They should not be allowed to work weekends only, no, six days straight, then one day off, then four days straight the following week. I take Sundays off and I am a believer that everyone should, even convicts.
Or, the person can elect to serve 30 days in jail (again, no weekends only please) and still pay the fine, and jail fees too. Perhaps Sheriff Joe will pitch in and provide a few tents at his tent city for our convicts to use.
If they are unable to pay their expenses while performing community service, but they are willing to work, then perhaps we (the community) can oblige them by providing lodging and meals at the county jail down in Payson.
If this is done, it will not take long for the word to get out and we will have a much cleaner forest, one way or the other.
As to the Dumpsters you ask? Well, here is a suggestion (notice, I said “A” suggestion, not the suggestion) how about we figure out how many we need and get a quote for cost from the garbage companies first and then we talk about our funding options.
I wonder, is anyone interested in exploring ideas to get our forest clean, and keep them clean? If so, please call me, I will happily participate in a meaningful discussion aimed at a solution.