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Local hikers finding more garbage on trails as people head outdoors to escape cabin fever

Phill Monson picks up garbage on a trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday, April 4, 2020. Monson said he has seen a lot more food wrappers, plastic bottles and baby diapers.
Winston Armani, Deseret News

BOUNTIFUL — Local hikers said they have seen a lot more people heading outdoors due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but not all of them have been following the rules, leaving behind lots of trash and animal waste.

Hiking has always been Jake Poulson’s way to get away from it all. He said lately he’s noticed a lot more people out hiking, too.

“My family and I, we’ve been hiking every day,” he said. “I would encourage people to get out.”

Jake Poulson, of Bountiful, said on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, that he likes seeing people enjoying the outdoors, but what he doesn’t like seeing is what some are leaving behind — soda cans, clothing and dog waste.
Winston Armani, Deseret News

He likes seeing people enjoying the outdoors, but what he doesn’t like seeing is what some are leaving behind.

“A lot of waste. Soda cans, pop cans, clothing. And dog waste. Dog waste is the big one,” said Poulson, who lives in Bountiful.

Pouslon said many trails have been getting trashed ever since Gov. Gary Herbert issued an order to stay home.

“There is definitely a lot more garbage on the trails,” he said.

Phill Monson said he has noticed more trash, too. He would know because he and friends have been cleaning trail garbage for years.

“Last year, if I gave it a good estimate, it’s about 2,500 pounds,” Monson said while cleaning garbage off a trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon Wednesday.

Monson said he has seen a lot more food wrappers, plastic bottles and baby diapers.

“Dirty diapers. The whole gamut,” he said.

Monson regularly hikes with a garbage grabber pole and a garbage bag. If he sees trash, he picks it up.

“Even picking up one piece of garbage leaves an impact,” Phill Monson said on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, while picking up trash on a trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Winston Armani, Deseret News

“When I go out into these places, I want to see them clean,” he said. “I want to make sure that they’re taken care of, and I can give back to them as much as they’ve given to me.”

Monson even wrote a children’s book featuring a superhero whose villain is trail garbage. He said he hopes it will teach kids stewardship.

“Even picking up one piece of garbage leaves an impact,” said Monson.

Poulson loved that idea and posted on Facebook to organize a community cleanup of the trails near his Bountiful home, especially since some cities have closed bathrooms and removed garbage cans from trailheads.

Poulson said it’s up to users to keep the trails as clean as possible.

“If you’re out hiking, please bring a garbage bag,” he said. “Don’t expect somebody else to clean up after you.”