Picking it up

Picking up litter is such a little thing, and I’ve really appreciated that act this year. Increased trail usage in my area has meant more trash on the trails, as people unused to using public lands haven’t yet developed good habits.

Does that sound patronizing? It’s kinder than my gut reaction, which is that people sometimes behave like jerks. Not a neighborly thing for me to think.

At any rate, I see folks rising to the challenge and picking up the trash. Some do so individually. (I keep a trash bag in my pack when I’m out and about, so I have one less excuse for passing by a dropped can.) Some people form or join crews, with the single purpose of cleaning up after thoughtless hikers.

woman picking up trash
Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

I have always admired people who are useful on trail crews. Someone has to cut the trails, build the bridges and boardwalks, and replace the bridges and boardwalks after they wear out. Someone has to clear deadfall every year. There’s always work to do. I’ve helped out in minor ways on such projects.

As far as I’m concerned, the people clearing trash on the trails this year are in the same league.

One shout-out to a local effort: I learned from Facebook and Instagram about such a crew close to home, imaginatively named The Litter Crew. A few times a month, they announce a trail location and a date and time, and welcome anyone to come. They provide bags, buckets, gloves, and “pickers,” handy claws-on-a-stick.

A few days ago, the Litter Crew called for a cleanup in my town on a trail that I mistakenly thought had been abandoned a long time ago. Not abandoned, as it turns out: it’s a bit of a party spot as well as being a well-defined path through the woods. I collected a single bag’s worth of trash, but that made me an underachiever in this crowd. The total yield, as reported later on the Crew’s Facebook page: “21 Full trash bags, 3 tires, 2 back seats from a car, a bike tire, tons of beer cans, and we found multiple old TVs and a refrigerator.”

That’s one trail on one day in one town. You get the idea. Sometimes, teamwork is the way to go.

I’m grateful to everyone helping to keep New Hampshire trails tidy. It’s not just an aesthetic or environmental thing. It’s a kind and thoughtful act in a time when kindness and thoughtfulness can be hard to come by. Not a bad return on the small investment of picking up some trash.