In 'Texas' Gift to the Nation,' a Big Ol' Mess

Park rangers remind public to clean up after photos show Big Bend National Park strewn with trash
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2023 8:45 AM CDT
In 'Texas' Gift to the Nation,' a Big Ol' Mess
A photo of the scene at Big Bend.   (Facebook/NPS-JGablaski)

On Saturday, rangers at Big Bend National Park, affectionately dubbed "Texas' Gift to the Nation," didn't find any gifts on a trail near the park's Panther Junction Visitor Center. Instead, the Houston Chronicle reports that they discovered piles of plastic bags, chip containers, soft drink cups, and various other pieces of trash scattered along the Panther Path after calls came in about the litter. "Park Rangers and Big Bend Natural History Association Staff quickly picked up everything, which also unfortunately included human feces," the park said in a Facebook post just before noon. "This is why we can't have nice things," one observer noted in the comments under the NPS' photos.

It's not the first time the park has had to contend with visitor waste, which became especially problematic during the pandemic—not only at Big Bend, but at many of the country's national and state parks, where people flocked to break the monotony of being stuck at home. "I can't tell you how much pee and feces were littered along the trail," Ellie Mora told Time in July 2020 of the park around Santa Paula Canyon, in California's Ventura County. "It's been decimated by people who have never hiked before ... It's insane to see people acting the way they have, like the end of the world."

After the latest incident in Big Bend, park officials are imploring visitors to properly get rid of trash and recyclables, and to even bring their waste home with them so that it doesn't end up in the park's landfill, which the National Park Service believes will be filled up by 2030 at the latest—and maybe even as early as two years from now, per the Chronicle. "Remember these places belong to everyone, and with that it's up to all of us to be good stewards of this amazing resource," notes the park in its Facebook post. (More Big Bend National Park stories.)

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