The springtime brings a growing number of visitors to the national forests, lakes and streams of the Rim Country.
The ever expanding population of Arizona, especially those in the Valley of the Sun, want to experience the high country mountains and all it offers.
As the temperatures rise, there is a definite increase in the number of visitors wanting the shade of a ponderosa pine, a campsite near water, or maybe just a casual hike along one of our many streams.
The secret is out, the Payson area and the Rim Country is now a destination which is good for the economy and business. Local restaurants, motels, and businesses benefit from the thousands of visitors who stop for a meal, last-minute camping needs, or an overnight stay.
With all the benefits of the economic boost from visitors, there is one glaring problem which appears to be getting worse with the increased foot traffic in our national forests: litter.
Waterways and trails are popular with the weekend visitors. One of my favorite spots is the Horton Trail and Creek, which seems to be busy every day of the week with a wide spectrum of folks and pets. Believe it or not, this once was the four-mile hike for solitude all the way to the spring gushing out of the Mogollon Rim.
There was seldom litter along the trail, but now it is an everyday occurrence to find wrappers, empty plastic bottles, or aluminum cans. This litter does not deteriorate rapidly and needs to be picked up by the person who consumed the product. We can talk about it, write about it, but picking up after oneself is a learned trait of personal responsibility. The sign, “Pack it in, pack it out” says it all.
In the last year, there is also an increasing number of small plastic sacks of dog poop left near the trail by pet owners. Last week, I counted 10 plastic sacks left in the first two miles of the hike to the spring.
My obvious question to these folks who leave this litter is: do you think that there is a pooper scooper hired by the Forest Service who walks along the trail picking up pet litter sacks? Personally, I will collect all the other trash when hiking, but there is a limit to what I will place in my daypack. If you are taking your dog on a hike, then clean up after them, that’s your job.
We have all seen the tied plastic garbage bag filled with camping litter left near a campsite or trail. Animals will certainly rip it apart within a few hours or most definitely after nightfall. The only acceptable alternative is to take it to the nearest dumpster or deposit it in your garbage can at home.
The national forests are ours, the public, and we have a personal responsibility to keep them clean and free from litter. We can make the forests cleaner because we were there. The goal is just to leave footprints and not debris. Who knows, maybe someone else is watching and might learn a valuable lesson from your actions.
We are blessed to live right in the middle of the Tonto National Forest, but publicly owned also dictates public responsibility. It is not someone else’s job to pick up your litter. Make a positive difference and leave it cleaner because you were there.
Do your part, and enjoy the Rim Country, God’s creation.