• Outdoors Outdoors

Austin resident shares concerning experience after Memorial Day weekend park visit: 'It's very scary'

"It's heartbreaking, you know, to just know that this is how people naturally behave."

"It's heartbreaking, you know, to just know that this is how people naturally behave."

Photo Credit: City of Austin

A woman trying to enjoy a park on the Tuesday after Memorial Day was shocked to discover an incredible amount of litter, potentially creating a hazard for her furry friend. 

KXAN reported that "numerous" cans, bottles, and boxes were left on the ground at Commons Ford Metropolitan Park, a popular recreation area in Austin, Texas. 

Masha Hearthen told the news station that all of the trash made her first visit to the park a stressful experience.

"It's very scary. I worry about my dog potentially, like eating something dangerous that might have been left, like a piece of a can," Hearthen said.

Unfortunately, as City of Austin Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Division manager Amanda Ross told the news outlet, holidays like Memorial Day can result in large volumes of trash marring the beautiful waterfront park. 

In addition to being unsightly, the trash can be dangerous to wildlife. 

Jars and bottles can trap smaller animals like rodents, and it can even lead to the death of creatures that mistake it for food. Following Memorial Day in Naples, Florida, last year, trash was seen strewn across nesting sites for sea turtles, a federally protected species.  

Fortunately, there are many ways to celebrate responsibly. 

"As we like to say, 'Leave No Trace,' so that that space can be enjoyable for future generations as well as for our local wildlife," Ross told KXAN. 

Opting for reusable containers when picnicking can help reduce harmful waste, but if that's not possible in a particular situation, ensuring that items are properly disposed of or recycled goes a long way toward keeping our parks clean and our wildlife safe. 

Some cities, like Austin with its 311 app, also have systems to report littering so the problem can be amended. However, in the event you run into trash polluting your neighborhood park, participating in cleanup efforts can help make things right. 

"It's heartbreaking, you know, to just know that this is how people naturally behave," one parkgoer who removed cans from the water at Commons Ford Metropolitan Park told KXAN, highlighting the importance of respecting our natural surroundings.  

Meanwhile, in San Marcos, a city roughly an hour from Austin, advocates are working to educate the community on a new single-use beverage container ban before ramping up enforcement. 

"For the most part, this is an educational summer," San Marcos River Foundation executive director Virginia Parker told KXAN after observing plastic waste following the holiday weekend. "We want people to come in and use the river — love the river. But also we don't want to negatively impact the environment."

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