The Memorial Day weekend crowds appeared to be at an all-time high, with the local campgrounds and day-use areas filled to capacity by Valley residents wanting to escape the heat of metropolitan Phoenix.
The trout lakes and streams in the Rim Country drew many of these weekend visitors. Pine trees and the hope of catching a fighting rainbow from any of the local waters is the obvious magnet for the huge crowds. For people who live in the Valley and enjoy the outdoors, Friday cannot come soon enough to make the short drive to their favorite fishing and camping spot somewhere in the Tonto National Forest.
But weekend visitors also pose a problem: The litter left along the shorelines of our creeks and lakes. Since it is our national forest, we should all take ownership — whenever we are fishing or hiking in the woods. I would encourage everyone to carry some kind of litter bag whenever they hike, fish or picnic.
The Forest Service does not have the manpower or funding for garbage pickup around campgrounds or day-use areas. The posted sign, “PACK IT IN - PACK IT OUT” says it all. The personal responsibility of not littering is important, but the idea of leaving an area cleaner because you were there sets the standards even higher. The students of Payson Education Center have unofficially adopted the streambed of the East Verde River from the first to the third crossing in hopes of making it litter free. They made their last trip of the school year to the creek prior to the Memorial Day week-end and made a difference for the anglers who wandered the shoreline.
Keeping a lake or stream free of aluminum cans, empty plastic water bottles, wrappers and PowerBait jars makes fishing or hiking so much more pleasant.
Last week I saw an example of this when two men from Wonder Valley on quads moved slowly along Houston Mesa Road to pick up litter.
They didn’t have to do this, but they wanted that mile of frontage road cleaner near their homes.
The next time you take that hike or go fishing at your favorite spot, bring a litter bag and make a positive difference. Maybe people who see you will get the idea of personal responsibility.
This weekend get some exercise, take a hike in the Rim Country and enjoy God’s creation — and set an example.