This weekend my family enjoyed a lovely afternoon kayaking on the Sleepy Creek Lake. We always enjoy our time in the Sleepy Creek Game Preserve; hiking, camping, kayaking or simply driving around enjoying the natural landscape. This weekend, however, I was able to notice just how littered that landscape has become with garbage carelessly tossed from cars or left behind by disrespectful campers and hikers.

Photo by A. King

Photo by A. King

I choose to believe that MiBurg readers are community minded and, therefore, not the guilty parties. However, if you are…Shame on you and stop it. Sleepy Creek Wildlife Preserve is open to everyone in the community. It is one of our most beautiful public spaces. The trails and lake are maintained and free for use. A shooting range is available for gun enthusiasts and hunters. The lake, while not for swimming, provides a good venue for boating and fishing. However, these areas are not personal garbage dumps.

We must take care with our public spaces. We must keep our refuse in our car until we reach a proper receptacle, or better yet, our home recycling bins. We must be mindful of the wildlife and others who wish to take in the beautiful vistas. I can think of absolutely no viable excuse for tossing litter outside a window rather than simply keeping it until you get home. If this is not is not possible, these spaces are not for you, stay home and leave the great outdoors for the deserving.

Maybe people do not realize the effects of litter on the environment. Ground covering litter smothers flora and contaminates groundwater. Animals get trapped in jars and cans or cut by broken glass. Leftover food can cause algae blooms in water, smothering marine animals and plants. A cigarette butt can cause a forest fire, especially in rural areas with dry leaf cover and no one nearby to notice. Millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on the cleaning and disposal of litter. Here is a photo essay showing the impacts of litter on wildlife.

Photo by A. King

Photo by A. King

What can we do to protect our public spaces? We can work to educate others on litter prevention, but I believe teaching respect for ourselves, others and our environment is necessary before education. We have become a disposable society, and unfortunately, some of us apparently consider the natural world to be disposable as well. Our family will be spending time in Sleepy Creek this spring and summer collecting and disposing of rubbish. Why? Because we care about our public spaces and it is important that my children learn the value of protecting them for future generations.

If you are interested in attending an organized cleanup event, Tannerman’s Weapon Systems is hosting a clean-up effort on Saturday, April 9 at Shooting range. More details can be found here.

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