My Turn: Awareness " one piece of litter at a time | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Awareness " one piece of litter at a time

Chris Close

I’ve been trying to become a runner. Mostly I run on the trails below the regional park in Tahoe Vista, but I’ve been enjoying a longer Sunday morning run along the Truckee River between 64 Acres and River Ranch.

One thing I’ve found about running is that I watch the ground just in front of me, and I have a few complaints about what I see. It’s litter.

I don’t understand; it seems that people try to discourage it, they talk about it and it generally seems taboo to toss one’s garbage any place a person might feel like it. There are even fines in some places for it.

However, this morning as I ran along the path next to the river I came across a lot of garbage ” and there are garbage cans all along the way. I even saw an aluminum can in one of the portable toilets. That’s not an appropriate receptacle for trash and there were garbage cans right outside.

I did discover that the mess wasn’t entirely due to the riverside’s human visitors. There were clear signs of bears and a few of the cans were overturned. As I thought about this it seemed odd to me that regular plastic garbage cans ” no lids even ” were being used along the path. There are a few bear boxes along the way as well, but in a county where a person can’t pull a building permit without including the installation of a bear box it seems that the businesses that benefit from the bike path and river as well as the local agencies that maintain those resources should be installing the boxes at more frequent intervals.

That aside, where does the real responsibility lie? I don’t believe it’s the government agencies’ job to make sure that our beautiful area is free of trash and garbage. Each individual shares that load. What if everyone who walked or rode the path picked up one or two pieces of trash they encountered? What if the folks who use the trails around the Tahoe Vista regional park picked up a little bit of litter and carried it out? And more importantly, what if the trash wasn’t even there in the first place? What if every person who used our bike paths, our trails and our beaches cherished them and didn’t leave their trash where it didn’t belong?

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Finally, I think the thing that irks me the most is the cigarette butts. People litter these things all over the place. They’re by the side of the road in front of my house, along the street in the towns and even on the trails. This drives me crazy in light of the fires we’ve seen. Don’t smokers make the connection that tossing cigarette butts could be responsible for starting a fire that is capable of destroying multiple homes in a matter of minutes? Aren’t these people paying attention?

In addition, these cigarette butts are not biodegradable. They are litter and will not decompose for a long time. I don’t want them littering my front yard and I don’t like to see them at my feet when I hike.

So I don’t know who you think you are and why you think it is okay to litter our beautiful area. You may be local or just visiting, you may be young or old or something in between, but I hope you’re reading this and realizing that you’ve been part of a problem. I hope you’ll decide to make a switch and become part of a solution picking up after someone else, even if it’s just one piece of litter at a time.