Friday, August 18, 2006

Big Trash-unga Canyon

In which M2, once again, gets miffed.

Last weekend I spent considerable time in and around the Big Tujunga Canyon area, hiking around and dodging pit vipers. In the canyon itself are a number picnic area/campgrounds that border the creek that trickles through the canyon floor. These should be lovely riverside spots.

Instead, they’re garbage dumps.

The banks of the creek and all around are strewn with refuse—fast food packaging, plastic and aluminum beverage containers, bits of furniture, papers plates, candy wrappers, six-pack caddies, old socks and T-shirts, and most vile of all, dirty diapers.

I asked a forest ranger about the trash. He said flatly and with a wearied shrug, “Well, that’s just the way they do it in Mexico.”

Well, speak the truth and shame the devil.

The fact is, the canyon is a favorite spot, especially in the summertime, for migrant families, mostly from Mexico and other points south. It’s a cheap family outing and, when the creek is high, an easy way to beat the heat. It’s possible to see literally hundreds of these families lounging on the banks of the creek in the high summer. It seems they bring their whole lives with them: chairs and tables, boomboxes and grills, grandma and grandpa. Nothing wrong with that; it’s what National Forests are for, at least in part. The problem is they leave their trash—tons upon tons of it—behind.

Hold your horses. I know that Mexican migrants are not the only people who litter. But I have also been to Mexico and have seen the casual disregard with which average people there treat the land. I've seen how trash is heaped in piles just anywhere; have watched as people simply tossed bags of trash out of car windows. It’s a huge problem in Mexico, and one that Mexican immigrants are clearly bringing with them.

I am in favor of gradual amnesty for most so-called illegals. I believe most Mexican migrants are honest, family-oriented folks who, in many cases, make better patriots than native-born Americans. But the callousness with which I have seen these immigrants show for public land and property is utterly unacceptable. It is incumbent upon Latino community leaders to educate their constituents in the proper respect. Respect for public land is a thing that we insist on from every American, and we must insist on it from very would-be American as well.


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