From socks to bottles to ball point pens, Grand Teton National Park’s Annual Park Clean-up Day strives to remove discarded “treasures” from the roadside. Service and Grand Teton Association (GTA) employees participate, as well as many of the Park concessioners, including Grand Teton Lodge Company (GTLC), Signal Mountain Lodge, Triangle X Ranch, and Flagg Ranch Resort.
A beautiful Thursday morning greets Grand Teton Lodge Company volunteers. Walking along Highway 26/89/19, we head north toward Colter Bay Village and the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It’s 8:30 am and the sun is shining, as our crew gets to work. With pick sticks as our tools, the hunt is on for the most interesting, the most useful, and the heaviest piece of trash, as well as the most recyclables.
“Car parts are always interesting,” said Bob O’Neil, GTLC Director of Human Resources. “You wonder how people were able to continue their trip.”
The clean-up has been in existence for several decades and while the weather can be unpredictable, especially this time of year, there are always employees willing to volunteer.
“If you have the privilege of living in one of the most unique ecosystems in the world, a place noted worldwide for its beauty, and an area set aside for the American people, you also have a responsibility to have it ready and in pristine condition prior to the visitors arriving,” said O’Neil.
Grand Teton National Park is not only our home, but it’s home to an immense amount of wildlife. Litter like tin cans and plastic wrappers are potentially harmful to area wildlife, some which are endangered and protected animals. We want to keep our environment clean for everyone to enjoy.
“While park employees and the staffs of GTA and park concessioners collectively pick up trash each spring, anyone can contribute to keeping the park’s roadsides tidy by properly disposing of litter,” said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott. “This responsible act also reduces the chance of bears getting unintended food rewards.”
One of this year’s tasks included the removal of a two-mile section of old buck and rail fence from the Airport Junction to the south end of Blacktail Butte. The project will improve wildlife migration across the Park and reduce maintenance costs.
Approximately 100 volunteers joined together for the clean-up day. “It was great to see so many people in orange safety vests scouring the roadsides for trash and removing old decadent fencing,” said Scott.
“One of the unique aspects of Grand Teton National Park is that it has an unspoiled natural beauty,” said O’Neil. “Even though we encourage people to visit, recreate and enjoy their National Park, we should ensure that we leave it as beautiful for the next person as it was when we first encountered it. In fact, where possible we should improve it. Cleaning up basic trash is an important step in keeping the park beautiful.”
With this in mind, the Annual Park Clean-up Day will be around for many years to come.