Visitors heading to City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park will need to add trash bags to their camping kits. The last trash cans in the parks have been removed from the Bath Rock area this past week.
Due to stagnant budgets, a National Park Service Green Parks Plan, and increasing fees to use the Almo roll-off station, the reserve and state park have gone to a pack-it-in, pack-it-out policy. For the time being, visitors can pick up trash bags from the visitor center in Almo and bring the bags back after their visit if they can’t take their trash home.
Park Superintendent Wallace Keck is asking visitors to plan ahead and suggests getting rid of as much packaging that you can before coming to the park. The parks had a record number of 240,000 visitors last year so a little extra trash adds up fast.
“We know we can’t change the culture, but we can start to be part of the push for the pack-it-in and pack-it-out initiative,” said Keck. “Many National Parks that have gone this direction.”
The park began removing trash cans in April, but several areas such as the Twin Sisters and Circle Creek Overlook have been trash-can-free for the last four to five years.
“We’re not concerned about tent campers at the City leaving trash because they seem to be more eco-conscious,” said Tara Cannon, assistant park manager. Without the receptacles, Cannon says, the staff hasn’t seen an uptick in trash being left behind.
The park is going to begin a Leave No Trace program beginning next week led by Jen McCabe, a ranger at the park. Staff is also going to begin adding signage to let visitors know about the policy change.
Staff members spent fall, winter and part of spring studying the issue. With the increased fees to use the Almo roll-off station — the park has to pay a commercial rate — they decided it wasn’t feasible to pay to use that location or drive their dump truck the roughly 100 miles round trip to Milner to dump the trash. Paying a private contractor may be too expensive also, though they will use one for a smaller amount of waste and see how much that will cost.
They decided the best solution was to reduce the amount of waste as possible.
“We’re going to figure this out and not leave visitors hanging with dirty diapers,” said Keck.