- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2000

Does the C&O; Canal National Historic Park, which is on public land, exist to serve the people who pay for it? Or should we taxpayers consider ourselves lucky that the National Park Service even lets us visit this public park?

I am greatly displeased at the removal of the trash cans at the Great Falls park. After speaking to the assistant superintendent of the park on Dec. 9, I grew more angry as I thought about the new policy and the philosophy behind it.

While his manner was polite, he defended the policy by listing several problems this policy is meant to address, such as:

m Litter in the park.

m Litter next to full trash cans.

m Bee stings caused from open or overfilled trash cans.

m Bird and animal bites caused when they forage through trash while people are near.

The assistant superintendent also noted that the "trash-free" policy is not a money saver and expressed his desire for people to take home their trash and recycle it.

I have a better solution to the second, third and fourth problems than removing the trash cans. Hire enough staff to empty them when they are full, and cover the cans when the lids fall off. This will eliminate trash next to full cans and should reduce bee stings and bothersome animals foraging through trash next to cans. It is the solution used by other National Park Service parks, such as Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

As for the first problem, litter in the park, anyone who would litter, particularly in this beautiful park, has no respect for nature or others. Before the new policy, trash cans were available, but some people littered anyway. If a litterbug ignored signs saying "Please Don't Litter," by what logic does the park think that a litterbug will pay attention to signs saying "Take Your Trash With You"?

Removal of the trash cans does not change the litterbug's behavior, because the litterbug never used them in the first place. Consequently, the new policy punishes those of us who respect our park. Only those who care enough not to litter must take all garbage, including pet waste, home with them in their cars. I can think of no other public or private place where people are not allowed to throw away their trash. This is an extreme inconvenience.

The park is not secluded somewhere in Montana where it may be impractical to have trash cans emptied. This is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Many people here go to the park to get away from the stress of big-city life, including deadlines, responsibilities, bad traffic and all of the other duties required to be a responsible and productive member of society.

As a hard-working taxpayer, I use the park in Great Falls for just this purpose. Unfortunately, now I have to choose between not eating or drinking when I go to the park and carrying garbage around all day.

In the National Park Service mission statement, the first guiding principle listed is, "Excellent Service: Providing the best possible service to park visitors and partners."

Also, entrance fees are now collected at the park. It is reasonable to assume that these fees go toward the maintenance of the park. Providing and emptying trash cans is basic maintenance. Forcing responsible patrons to carry garbage seems at odds with "Providing the best possible service to park visitors." To reduce litter in the park, we must encourage respect from those who litter, not burden those who do not.

That the removal of the trash cans punishes only those who respect the park seems obvious. I can only wonder at the underlying philosophy behind this action.

Perhaps the superintendent of the park needs to be reminded that the park exists to serve the people the people do not exist to serve the park.

The "trash-free" policy is discourteous and unfriendly toward patrons. Please let common sense come back into the equation by putting trash cans back in the park.

THEODORE E. LOEFFLER

Falls Church

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