Mountain Lifestyle: Snow Play Debris Trashing Our Forest
Those of us that live in mountain communities enjoy a lifestyle unlike those of the big city dwellers. Mountain residents tend to have a deep love and respect for the outdoors. Flagstaff, AZ is loved for it’s mountain air, four seasons, charming downtown, expansive open spaces and ….. Littered Forests?? Wait a minute, forests are nature’s bastion of serenity, respected and enjoyed by all who visit, aren’t they?? Year after year we observe the wrong kind of mountain tradition here in Flagstaff. Year after year the forests are littered with snow play trash and debris left by visitors who want to enjoy our mountain lifestyle but refuse to respect it.
Flagstaff residents Jacob and Meg Schmugge, brought a carload of snow play trash to City Hall to make a statement. Broken sleds, food containers and empty drinks make up the trash that they have found on the side of the road on Highway 180. They say that other friends often fill up pickup beds with trash and broken sleds as well.
Highway 180 is a popular area to play in the snow. Wing Mountain and Crowley Pit both offer U.S. Forest Service sanctioned sledding. Wing Mountain is professionally managed by Recreation Resource Management under contract with the USFS. Crowley Pit is not managed but does provide restroom and trash facilities for visitors. The trash receptacle is usually filled by visitors well before it is picked up and trash spills over onto the ground and is left all over the forest.
Bradley Sorenson is a USFS employee that has to leave his regular duties just to help manage the trash problem along the 180 corridor. Bradley told a local newspaper that his group routinely picks up seven to eight pickup truckloads of trash each week. That is on top of the dumpsters, the local residents and the trash left at the managed areas. Sorenson says that often visitors just get up and walk away after breaking a sled.
Technically, Winter visitors that leave litter in the forest are committing a federal offense. It is a class B misdemeanor that can include a fine of up to $280.
Enjoy the Mountains, Respect the Forest
Flagstaff’s economy relies on tourism. Visitors from the Phoenix area make up the majority of snow play traffic. Phoenix residents come up to the “High Country” to enjoy the snow, ski and sled. Many convenience stores and gas stations see a sharp rise in revenue not just from gasoline, but also by selling plastic, disposable sleds to snow players. Restaurants and bars rely on Winter visitors to make the cold months profitable.
Here in Flagstaff we love our mountain town and our mountain lifestyle. Many Flagstaff residents make real sacrifices to live here instead of Phoenix. We welcome our neighbors from the big city. We want you to come here and enjoy the snow and the forest. We just have a simple request, respect our mountain community and the forest as much as you enjoy it.
Is snow play litter a problem in your mountain community? Leave a comment below or submit an article!