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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Is it trash?

What’s your reaction when you see an empty can when you’re hiking? It’s trash left by some careless hiker, right? Not so fast. Sometimes there can be a debate about what is considered trash. The Indian Hill area of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has many rusty cans left by the workers in the 1930s that built the railroad that crosses that section of the desert. Many people consider that trash and pack it out. But others want it left undisturbed as part of the history of the region.

There are many examples of mining equipment, wood sheds, and supplies abandoned by miners in Death Valley National Park several decades ago. The National Park Service leaves these sites undisturbed. The sites draw many visitors. Perhaps the abandoned equipment helps visitors envision life from a simpler time. It helps paint a picture of how much a struggle life was, and how hard the miners worked, and under what conditions they toiled.

What about the pictographs drawn on rock by Native Americans? Those should certainly be saved since they’re part of our history.

What about new items such as beer cans? They certainty fit the description of trash.

But what about older beer cans? Recently I found a can from the 60s with the pull off tab. It’s not as old as the cans from the railroad workers but certainly a good 40 years old. It looks like a modern can so I called it trash, and pack it out.

So, what makes it trash? Is it the age of the can? Would your answer about the miners can be different if the rusty can were located 200 yards from the mine site instead of directly at the mining site where it helps paint a picture of the mining settlement?

Should we be actively seeking out and packing out items, or just those items close to the trail?

What’s your opinion?

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