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Let’s Talk Trash

By on July 14, 2020 in News

While other open spaces, beaches, and nearby water parks closed down at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, we kept OVLC preserves open to meet our community’s need for outdoor exercise and well-being. Inadvertently, this has led to overuse and abuse of the Ventura River. As a result, there has been an overwhelming amount of waste at the trailheads. Trash has always been an issue on the preserves, but in today’s COVID-19 world, keeping the trailheads clean has become an overwhelming challenge for our staff. Because of this we are asking for your help. Below are some ways we have tried to mitigate the trash issues over the last few months. The biggest impact you can have is by reducing the amount of waste you bring to the preserves.

Pack it in, Pack it out

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, we closed (locked and nailed shut) our trash bins at the Ventura River Preserve to reduce high touch surfaces as a way of protecting preserve users and our staff. We also posted “PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT” signage asking people to take their trash home with them. Unfortunately, this request wasn’t followed by all, and people were leaving trash on and around the trash bins. We even had a case where someone decided to force open the lids of the trash bins.

To mitigate this problem we tried removing the trash bins entirely from one of the trailheads. While most people took their trash home, a few users still left their trash where the bins used to reside. To make matters worse, we started to see trash accumulate around the perimeter of this trailhead, including baby diapers hanging in the bushes. Clearly removing the trash bins didn’t work.

Trash piled up on the bins at Oso Trailhead with take home signage clearly visible

Reopening the Trash Bins

Next, we tried reopening the trash bins, even though this puts both preserve users and our staff at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. After a few weeks, we quickly realized that our trash receptacles just don’t have the capacity to hold the amount of trash being thrown out at the trailheads. It used to take a week for the trash receptacles to fill up, and now it only takes three days. As a result, the trash bins have been overflowing and wildlife are getting into them. Not only does this make an absolute mess, but it also endangers the health of the animals. Please help by taking your trash home with you.

The type of trash we are picking up has changed too. It used to mainly be dog poop bags, snack bars, and the occasional water bottle. Now we are dealing with high quantities of beer bottles, toilet paper, human feces, floaties, pop-up tents, chairs, goggles, cigarettes, Styrofoam coolers, plates, utensils, condoms, underwear, shoes, and more.

Left: A baby diaper and wipe hanging from a laurel sumac at Oso Trailhead
Right: A Styrofoam cooler filled with trash that was left at Old Baldwin Trailhead

Why Not Dumpsters?

Yes, we have considered dumpsters. However, placing dumpsters at the trailheads would open the door to unwarranted dumping, wildlife would get into them, and they are expensive.

The result of wildlife rummaging through overflowing trash bins at Old Baldwin Trailhead less than a week after the bins were reopened

What does PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT really mean?

As preserve usage increases, we must all be mindful of even the smallest effects we are having on the land and the experience of others who use the preserves. Every little piece of trash that gets left behind builds up overtime and turns into a bigger problem. We all need to start practicing “Leave No Trace” principles like pack it in, pack it out. Simply put, pack it in, pack it out means taking home everything that you brought in with you.

Before you even leave your house, think about how you can reduce your waste. Pack your food and water into reusable containers and leave the plastic at home. Simplify your meals and leave all of the pool toys at home. The Ventura River Preserve isn’t a water park nor is it a place for parties and large gatherings. It’s all of our duty to protect and preserve the natural environment of this land, and that is why we call it a preserve and not a park. Please help us preserve the natural beauty of the lands you visit and love by practicing pack in it, pack it out.

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