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National Parks Getting Trashed During Covid Closures

Tony Webster
Wikimedia Commons

As visitors return to Western North Carolina’s trails and parklands, they’re leaving mounds of trash behind them.

Many parks and forests have reopened for hiking and recreation, but bathrooms and garbage are not being maintained as regularly as during pre-pandemic levels. U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Adrienne Rubiaco says trash collection was suspended at many sites to ensure that janitorial workers received personal protective equipment.


"There are certain locations that employees are providing those trash services, but that’s not every location.... It’s just kind of different depending on where you’re going.”


Rubiaco says the agency is gradually reintroducing janitorial and trash collection services with contractors to sites throughout the region. But she adds the trash pileup is particularly concerning in camping areas where visitors are expected -- even pre-pandemic -- to “pack out what you bring in.”  


And the "leave no trace principle" includes excrement.


"If you have the need to relieve yourself, and when you’re done using the bathroom, cover it back up, preferably off of a trail, not near a trail or near a developed recreation area where visitors will be visiting the forest,” Rubiaco said. 


Sites in the Pisgah National Forest have closed their bathroom facilities to the public, due to the pandemic. The U.S Forest Service says that’s led to a stinky problem. 


For those who want to hike with the comfort of porcelain water closets close by, the Forest Service is beginning to reopen bathroom facilities. As of this week, several sites in the Nantahala National Forest have reopened their public toilets, including the Wayah Bald Lookout Tower and the Nantahala River Put-In.