Ranger Trails: Keep nature trash-free 
by helping spruce up park on monument

A hiker enjoys the pristine landscape along Monument Canyon Trail. The monument has breathtaking views but sometimes serves as a public landfill for inconsiderate humans. People are invited to participate in a project to clean up the park on National Public Lands Day.



The Colorado National Monument staff and Grand Valley Bikes, a nonprofit club, devised a two-pronged project to attack the litter problem from high on Rim Rock Drive and low in the canyons.

For every hiker and cyclist who derives pleasure from the scintillating panorama of Colorado National Monument, there looms a window of opportunity to make it sparkle even brighter.

Ditto for photographers, campers, astronomers, motorists, botanists, geologists, biologists and lizard-lovers like me.

Don’t miss this rare chance to exercise your body and your charitable instincts for a greater cause: keeping nature trash-free.

This probably sounds like a silly invitation, but there’s a sobering fact behind it.

Unlike the vast majority of visitors, a few people use the park as their personal trash bin. No kidding. They dump their empty water bottles, dirty diapers, truck tires, dead batteries and the ubiquitous fast-food bag on an otherwise pristine landscape of junipers and cactus that golden eagles, rattlesnakes and desert bighorn call their home.

“Lots of golf balls and beer bottles, too,” park ranger Annie Runge said.

However disturbing this may be to fathom, it’s reality.

The monument serves as a public landfill for a minority of inconsiderate humans. Last summer, I picked up a half-gallon bottle of Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum (empty, of course) at White Rocks, a popular site in the park where partygoers had recently built a campfire, drained several beer cans, spray-painted boulders with crude artwork, and simply left.

An abundance of trash remains out there, just waiting to be picked up and hauled away.

This window of opportunity, lasting only five hours at the monument, is celebrated as National Public Lands Day. It happens Saturday, Sept. 29.

National Public Lands Day was established in 1993 to:

■ heighten public awareness of the value of all public lands;

■ foster shared stewardship of these national resources;

■ encourage people to volunteer their time.

Nationwide, more than 170,000 volunteers are expected to pitch in by planting native plants, building trails and picking up trash in parks and other public lands.

Locally, the monument staff and Grand Valley Bikes, a nonprofit club, devised a two-pronged project to attack the litter problem from high on Rim Rock Drive and low in the canyons. Both tactics depend heavily on volunteers from the community to spruce up the park. 

Hikers and bikers are invited to participate in this adventure. All ages, from kids to old-timers, are welcome.

Both groups will start at 8 a.m. and end with a free barbecue at 1 p.m.

Hikers will work different canyons. Runge, an education ranger, said about 50 volunteers are needed, but only half that number signed up so far. She will lead a crew into Columbus Canyon, where everything from grocery carts to propane tanks has been unceremoniously tossed from high above Cold Shivers.

There is no entry fee for volunteers. Lunch will be provided by REI at Devil’s Kitchen picnic area on the east side of the park. Volunteers must sign up for details. Call 970-858-3617, ext. 366, or visit http://www.nps.gov/colm/index.htm.

Grand Valley Bikes calls its half of our mission “Rim Rock Drive Junk Ride.” While hikers scour canyons for trash, Grand Valley Bikes cyclists will patrol 23 miles of roadway doing the same. For details on where to meet, visit gjcyclists.blogspot.com.

If you can make the time, join us. We’ll be out there bagging golf balls, beer bottles and propane tanks, strengthening our muscles and socializing with like-minded folks. This promises to be a rewarding experience.

Best of all, it’s knowing we make a difference in a place that makes a difference in our lives.

Sandstrom is a park ranger at Colorado National Monument and teaches at Colorado Mesa University. If you have an interesting story to share with readers, he can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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