Sandy Point's Trash-Free Test ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

June 04, 1993

Here's the bad news about Sandy Point State Park's new "trash free" program, which had its first real test over the long Memorial Day weekend: Park rangers had to collect 10 to 15 truckloads of trash bags that 12,000 visitors left strewn across the beach and picnic grounds.

And the good news? That was 80 percent less trash than was hauled away on Memorial Day weekend a year ago, before the state Department of Natural Resources got rid of trash bins at all state parks and started handing out recyclable trash bags and making park visitors responsible for hauling away their own garbage.

Here's more positive news: Maryland's other 47 state parks and forests did a far better job at getting visitors to clean up after themselves. At the sprawling Gunpowder Falls State Park and Hart-Miller Island in Chesapeake Bay, which thousands of boaters, campers and picnickers visited last weekend, rangers found but a single trash bag.

Overall, the DNR estimates that 95 percent of visitors are complying with the new trash rules.

Unfortunately, most of the scofflaws seem to have congregated at Sandy Point. The DNR doesn't have an explanation for that, although it notes that statewide beach areas were a bigger problem than picnic grounds. Whatever the reason, it's clear that Sandy Point officials need to continue making visitors understand from the time they come through the gate that they must take their trash with them.

If abandoned bags become a larger problem, the state might consider doing what New Hampshire does -- marking visitors' license plate numbers on their bags so park officials can track down those who fail to comply. Based on the overall success of the Memorial Day weekend, however, such extreme measures do not seem necessary yet.

Many people were skeptical when DNR announced March 1 it was stopping park trash collection. We thought it was a good idea. The trash-free program eliminates overflowing trash cans that smell and attract animals and bugs. It saves money for the park system. And it gives the public a greater stake in caring for a resource it enjoys.

Most people are willing to comply. Those who aren't should ask themselves: How difficult it is to throw the trash in a bag, tie it and put it in the trunk? Not very.

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