Trash piling up in Barton Creek Greenbelt ‘an absolute disaster’

Trash at Campbell's Hole on June 28, 2017 (ReportIt/Jay Bowles)
Trash at Campbell's Hole on June 28, 2017 (ReportIt/Jay Bowles)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Summer’s here and school’s out, sending thousands to Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt. But a viewer reached out to KXAN with concerns of trash at Campbell’s Hole, spoiling a hot spot to enjoy nature.

The problem is bigger than this — one the Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) is hoping to solve with the help of the community.

Jay Bowles sent KXAN pictures of the trash he stumbled up on Wednesday, saying typically, Campbell’s Hole is “a safe, enjoyable little oasis.”

But this week, “It was an absolute disaster. And that was enough for me to reach out and just try to make some community impact.”

Though KXAN didn’t see the same amount of trash from our camera’s vantage point, it quickly became clear why. Volunteers came out to clean up the mess.

“We picked up five and a half to six, large trash sacks, just like piles of it,” Morgan Hamberg said. “That was just today.”

For Hamberg’s friend Christian Majors, visiting from Kyle, it was his first time to Campbell’s Hole. He spent a majority of that time cleaning up.

“You’ve got to do better than that if you’re going to keep this beautiful,” Majors said. “You should just be a steward of your environment.”

PARD says each trailhead has about 10 trash cans that maintenance crews empty twice a day. But even that isn’t enough, acknowledging even at the trash cans, trash is often overflowing before crews even make their way back into the greenbelt to pick up.

When asked if the city has considered additional trash cans within the trail itself, PARD said that would require additional manpower and trips to the dumpster, resources the department currently doesn’t have.

“It’s a big problem,” Park Ranger Kerstin Johansson told KXAN of the trash, but a new education campaign, “Leave No Trace,” aims to change that.

“A cultural shift is really what we’re looking for,” she said. Rangers will be more visible this summer, spreading the word about ways to protect the land.

“A lot of people are moving to the city and that’s more people on the environment so we definitely have an important message to share,” Johansson said. “Yes it is a challenge, but we’re trying to increase our effectiveness with this branding and messaging of ‘Leave No Trace.’”

From the Austin Parks and Recreation website: 

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
  • In popular areas:
  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
  • In pristine areas:
  • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

4. Leave What You Find

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

6. Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

The policy on the Greenbelt to keep in mind this holiday weekend is “Pack it in, pack it out.”

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