Leave No Trace

By Stephanie Boismenue

Litter found on the Big Island

A few years ago while on one of my early morning kayak paddles around the shoreline of Squash Lake, I discovered a disheartening situation on the big island.

It was a glorious early morning – perfect for a quiet paddle around the lake – the sun was just rising, the dew was heavy on every leaf and branch, and the solitude was outstanding . As my kayak quietly glided along the shore, I became awestruck as I witnessed the wildlife awakening for the day.

After paddling for a long distance, I stopped at the big island to stretch my legs. Stepping out of my kayak, I noticed an empty beer can laying in the sand – which I tossed in the hatch of my kayak to take home and recycle. Walking along the shoreline, I picked up trash and more cans. I thought to myself – what the heck- this stuff wasn’t there the day before. As I took the foot path up the hill, I discovered several piles of wet soggy toilet paper throughout the woods, human waste, more garbage, and more empty beer cans. In addition, the fire pit contained very warm wood – some with orange embers – clearly whomever had the fire the night before had not bothered to extinguish it. Thoroughly frustrated and disgusted, I made several trips back to my kayak to stow away the trash and cans. Returning to the footpath I proceeded further down and discovered the culprit’s – three young adults who were just emerging from their dew covered tent. I spoke to them and explained that though it was state owned land, overnight camping on the island was not allowed and asked them to please read the appropriate signage stating so, which was located by their boat. The three people quickly took down their tent and packed up their gear. Before they left, I asked them if they would please be kind enough to put out their campfire and pick up the piles of wet-soggy toilet paper and their human waste – they did not.

I realize that it is very tempting to camp overnight on the big island, however is it not permitted, and for very good reasons- to minimize impact on the environment. If one person wanted to camp overnight, then everyone would want to. The consequences of this are huge . Human waste would be a major issue, as would compaction of the forest floor that would occur, which would not allow water to seep through, but rather runoff creating forest land erosion, and destruction of wildlife habitat- an unimaginable tragedy. Please treat our Squash Lake Community with Tender Loving Care and Please – Leave No Trace.

Because of this incident, I now stow a trash bag and disposable gloves in my kayaks.