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Eliminating trash takes more than cans

Nothing says summer vacation like sun, sand, staying cool, swimming pools and … stacks of garbage?

That was the way it went recently as my wife and I took our two daughters, 2 and 4 years old, to do a little exploring of the great state of Ohio. We took a family vacation at Maumee Bay State Park on Lake Erie in the northern part of the state.

The weather was beautiful. The water was warm. The scenery was breathtaking. All in all, my family had a great time.

But one thing really surprised me: The sheer volume of trash left on the sandy beaches and in the parking lots of this public area that offers free recreational opportunities.

I have always been disappointed and dumbfounded at the carelessness and lack of respect some people show for Mother Nature and the world in which we live.

Now, I’m not a tree-hugging environmentalist — although there is nothing wrong with that — but I do expect some serene beauty when in the great outdoors.

Even early in the morning the beach areas were littered with garbage from those who had enjoyed the sand a day before.

And I’m not talking about a piece of paper here or there. There were dozens of pop bottles. Countless fast food bags and boxes. Plastic bags. Cardboard. Old beach toys. And just general refuse.

It was very disappointing to me that some people who would come to the state park to enjoy the beautiful, natural environment show such little consideration for keeping it that way.

My 4-year-old even gets it.

“It’s not very nice to litter, Daddy,” she said as we picked up some of the garbage in our immediate area.

Then I looked around a little closer. Something caught my attention and raised an even more perplexing question: Where were all the garbage cans?

I looked all around the beach, the parking lot and the roads and didn’t see a single one.

That certainly is no excuse to litter, but it also explains why the problem may have gotten so out of control.

Then I saw a park employee diligently walking along the shoreline and through the parking lots filling 50 gallon trashcan after trashcan with all the waste that had been left behind.

Later, I asked a different employee what this was all about.

His sly smile told me it was going to be a funny story, but maybe not so “ha ha” funny.

“Well, we used to have trash cans,” he said. “It required a couple people to spend all day, every day going around emptying them. Then, as a way to save time, someone decided we should get rid of them and just have large dumpsters located periodically along the parking area.”

As he said this, I was looking around. I didn’t see any dumpsters either.

“Then, as a way to save money, someone decided we could just get rid of the dumpsters,” he continued with somewhat of an exasperated sigh.

Leave it to the government to make this type of decision.

So that’s the story of why there was far too much trash and far too few trash cans at the state park. Despite it all, Maumee Bay is still a beautiful place to visit and the employees work hard to clean it up as quickly as they can.

Hopefully one day we will, as a society, learn a lesson to start taking care of our natural resources.

Here in Lawrence County, we are blessed with organizations like the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District, Ironton In Bloom, Operation TLC and other civic groups that do the best they can to help keep our region beautiful and trash free.

Imagine our summer vacations and trips to the beach if we would all start cleaning up our own messes and taking care of our planet.

That would be really cool in a whole other way.


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.