Dr. Jane Goodall once said, “It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference – all the difference in the world!” Managers at Buffalo National River will put this theory to the test this spring as they implement a new solid waste management strategy that relies on park visitors to dispose of their own trash.
The new ‘Give Us a Hand’ policy, which places the onus on park visitors to responsibly manage the waste they bring into the park, is modeled after similar initiatives implemented at George Washington Memorial Parkway and state parks in Ohio, Delaware, and Maryland. Trash bins have been removed from most day use areas along the river and signs have been posted advising visitors that they must carry out any trash they generate while visiting the park. Trash bins and dumpsters will remain in place at the five developed campgrounds that charge fees (Ozark, Steel Creek, Kyles Landing, Tyler Bend, and Buffalo Point.)
The ‘Give Us a Hand’ concept was initially considered as a cost saving measure by the financially challenged park. However, park employees have embraced the idea for its environmental benefits. “Not collecting trash will certainly save money, in the tens of thousands of dollars. But the real impetus is sustainability. Removing the trash cans will encourage visitors to recycle and reduce the amount of waste they generate,” stated Bill Osterhaus, the park’s Chief of Facilities Management. Osterhaus concedes that this may be a bitter pill to swallow for some folks, but encourages the public to keep an open mind and think long-term. “The ‘Carry In/Carry Out’ initiative has been successfully implemented all around the country. Study shows us that there is always resistance at first, but the end result is less trash in the parks. It forces people to re-think their consumption and as a society with growing population and dwindling resources, this is something we must do.”
As floaters launch their canoes this spring, park employees will launch an education campaign to inform visitors of the ‘Give Us a Hand’ policy and provide tips on how to plan for a minimal trash experience. Caven Clark, Chief of Resources Management and Education, believes that visitor education is critical to the success of the waste management initiative. “This is a foreign concept for most Americans and there will be a learning curve,” commented Clark. “Our education efforts need to focus not only on the benefits of waste reduction but also explain the inevitable and dire consequences down the road if we don’t change our behavior as a society. Waste reduction is a global movement. Several European countries such as Denmark and France have adopted Zero Waste strategies with great success. Here in the U.S., many large cities have implemented serious waste reduction plans. While Buffalo River is certainly not the first park to start thinking outside the box about waste management, the park is on the forefront of a movement that will undoubtedly change the world for the better.”