| Pack It Out Program Sets Record

By Michele Nelson

The Forest Service Pack It Out program only needed 20 more pounds of trash to make it an even 10,000 pounds collected on the July 4th weekend — which thrilled staff and set a new record for the program.

“Once again, Pack It Out has proven to be a huge success with just under 10,000 pounds of trash hauled out of the forest. A new record,” said recreation officer Chelsea Muise.

She said she even heard people say they saved up their trash to drive it to the Home Depot parking lot to drop it off.

Muise reported that for patrols, the weekend started off slow because of the weather, but increased as the warmer weather took over.

“The thunder/lightning/rain scared off a lot of people Friday night so Saturday morning patrols were incredibly slow,” she said. “Popular camping areas like Flowing Springs, Cracker Jack, and Verde Glen had campers, but far fewer than usual. Things picked up considerably Saturday afternoon and by Sunday morning it felt like a true holiday weekend.”

Muise, volunteers and staff didn’t get to eat hot dogs and roast marshmallows during the huge weekend, they tramped through the forest’s most popular camping grounds armed with black trash bags and information on the Pack It Out program.

Despite the education efforts, recreation officer Jason Spence had to haul an additional 100 pounds of trash out of the Flowing Springs camping areas on top of the trash dumped at the Home Depot dumpster.

Up at Whispering Pines, the fire department had its own 30-yard dumpster. The fire department has partnered up with the Forest Service to help collect trash.

Problem was, their dumpster wasn’t big enough to hold all the trash.

“By Monday their dumpster was full to the brim and they were directing all traffic to us,” said Muise.

She said that things were slow at the Home Depot dumpsters until 11 a.m. when volunteers could barely keep up with the rush until 2 p.m. when it tapered off again.

Muise gives a lot credit to the success of the Pack It Out program to her volunteers.

“A huge thanks goes out to all the volunteers who make this program such a success,” she said. “Without your dedication and willingness to give up your holiday weekend to sling trash, none of this would be possible.”

Muise will pull out all the stops for the Labor Day weekend.