To stash that trash, you'll need to take it home State parks will give visitors bags so they can take garbage with them

March 01, 1993|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Staff Writer

It's still too cold to think about picnicking. But the next time you visit a state park, don't bother to look for a trash can to throw away your chicken bones and paper plates. There won't be any.

As of today, all the trash barrels and trash bins have been removed from picnic areas and beaches in Maryland's state parks and forests.

Odd as it may sound, it's part of a campaign to make the state's parklands "trash-free."

Park visitors will be issued a plastic bag when they arrive and asked to take their trash with them when they leave.

"The idea is to make the parks look prettier for everyone, and to encourage recycling," said Mike O'Brien, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.

The idea also is to save money for the cash-strapped park system, which in recent years has had to cut staff and close some facilities for the winter that had been open year-round.

The state had been paying more than $90,000 a year to rent trash bins at each of its 46 parks and six forests, which have more than 8 million visitors.

Freed from dealing with trash, park rangers will have more time to focus on other tasks, like conducting nature hikes and doing fix-up projects. At Patapsco Valley State Park west of Baltimore, one of the state's most popular, the staff spent three days a week emptying garbage cans, said Carol Anders, a DNR spokeswoman.

But creating a better park environment is the chief reason for do-it-yourself trash removal, state officials say. Besides being unsightly and smelly, garbage cans and trash bins are magnets for pesky yellow jackets, raccoons and sea gulls.

"Even if this doesn't save us a penny, we're still going to do it," said Chris Bushman, assistant chief of field operations for the state forest and parks service.

While some might fear that taking away trash cans will encourage littering, similar "carry in, carry out" programs in 21 other states have been "extremely successful," Maryland park officials say.

Campgrounds will be exempt, state officials say, but overnight areas used by Scouts and other youth groups will be included.

"There will still be some litter," Mr. Bushman acknowledged. Groups using picnic pavilions may be the hardest to persuade to bag their trash, one official predicted.

But state officials hope the public's enthusiasm for recycling will spread to the parks.

"A great majority of people recycle now, and yet when they go anywhere, they stop doing it," said Mr. Bushman.

The bags to be given to park visitors, supplied at a cost of $5,000 by the Maryland Environmental Service, will be made of recycled plastic and will be recyclable.

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