We are ALL ambassadors for the continuation of free public land dispersed camping. When one of us leaves trash it reflects on all of us. Let’s do our part!
Please look at the end of this post for the link to an article that All About Arizona News recently published.
I have emailed them the following comment:
I would like to comment on the article you wrote: “Visitors Are Trashing Coconino National Forest Campgrounds”
I do believe you mean “dispersed camping areas” instead of campgrounds because that word implies that the are is improved camping areas with slabs, trash bins, picnic tables and bathrooms whereas dispersed camping areas are none of the above. Perhaps you should hear the “rest of the story”:
Dispersed camping areas are open to all people who wish to camp in a natural setting and the rules are that 1 camping unit may stay for up to 14 days. A camping unit is normally a family or a single person staying in a dispersed camping area. It is open to all people including those who walk in for whatever reason.
The ones who walk in do not have the means to take all of their trash with them so they leave it all behind and that means EVERYTHING including trashed tents, human feces, cooking utensils, unused food items, bedding, etc….
The “Visitors” as they are referred to in your article are actually the ones who are cleaning up the forest and then putting it beside the road for the forest service to take care of. They feel like they are doing their part. Why do they do that you may ask. The reason they are doing it is because the forest service will not try to do anything related to cleaning up the forest. They say it is not their responsibility.
Perhaps the forest service for Coconino National Forest and Prescott National Forest should contact Ranger Bill Anderson of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) office in Yuma. He works with local concerned citizens, volunteer groups and non profits every single year to help keep Quartzite* dispersed camping areas and surrounding city areas clean and trash free. The BLM office arrives with 2 trucks and one large flat bed trailer. They also supply trash bags and long handle grippers as well as gloves for those who don’t bring their own. They haul the trash to the local dump once the area is clean. Did you know that Quartzite can grow to 1 million people every winter as snowbirds flock the area from all across the USA and Canada?
Let me tell you first hand what has happened when I have contacted the local forest service. I called on one occasion and asked if my friends and I could clean up the area outside of Thousand Trails campground in Cottonwood (on the way to the bignotti Picnic Site) and could they haul off what we got together (there were multiple areas of trash all around which were from those people who walk in). They told me that they do not do that and they don’t have the means to haul it. So my friends and I cleaned it up and called a local landscaper to come and haul it off and we paid for it out of our pockets.
The next year a friend called the same office and was told, “then the prisoners wouldn’t have anything to do”. The next year they had closed the area completely off to all campers because of trash that they refused to help anyone try to clean up.
“Those who walk in” are often those who have no other option nor a vehicle to leave in. Many times a local “help” organization will give them a free tent, food supplies, a small amount of water and then they further help by giving them a ride out to our National Forest and tell them they must leave within 14 days. They never return to check on them. The local campers who don’t walk in find the trash left behind and the only option they have is to leave it beside the dirt access road because they don’t have the means to haul it off.
This feels like a no-win situation. Responsible campers (which the majority are) find trash left on our National Forests repulsive and they can only do what they can do. If the forest service would put together a system whereby campers can help with or participate with them, I think the trash problem would diminish considerably. A way to do that would be to contact an organization like ours, a visiting camper facebook group or website and put out there that help is needed or even put a notice in the local paper or online that on this date and at a given time a clean up will be scheduled and that volunteers are needed. If the forest service would handle it much like the BLM, I think the outpouring of help will be unforgettable.
Let’s try to work together as a positive unit instead of “them” against “us”attitude.
*The traditional notion of “home” has little meaning here in Quartzsite, AZ. During January and February, homes on wheels outnumber permanent houses by about 500 to 1. The sleepy town of less than 4,000 year-round residents receives a winter migration of nearly 2 million humans and their mobile dwellings each year” Jan 22, 2020