PECOS, N.M. (KRQE) - People living near Pecos say one of New Mexico's most pristine natural areas is being tarnished with trash, and they're blaming the U.S. Forest Service for the problem.
The Santa Fe National Forest recently closed some facilities in the Pecos-Las Vegas Ranger District due to a lack of funding. Officials closed restrooms and took away trash cans at eight day-use sites.
Four campgrounds in the area will remain closed through at least the 2013 camping season.
The closures don't mean people are staying away, and now residents are concerned about what they say the Forest Service is allowing them to leave behind.
Hugh Ley, a lifelong Terrero resident and member of the Upper Pecos Watershed and Business Associations, says the Pecos-area day-use sites are being swamped with trash and human waste.
Tuesday, KRQE News 13's cameras found used toilet paper, empty beer cans, food wrappers and other trash at two sites: Windy Bridge and Lower Dalton.
"Just give the folks a place to put it; I mean they'll try," said Ley.
Hugh says without the facilities, people are doing whatever they want with their trash and going to the bathroom all over the site.
"These facilities have always been available for them," said Ley.
The Forest Service closed the facilities on April 1 saying they didn't have the funding to keep the services going.
"Pumping cost was a major concern for them, and they were going to lock all of the day-use facilities that do not generate revenues," said Ley.
The Forest Service says people are supposed to take out their own trash under the "Pack it in, pack it out" motto. However, Ley says it's not happening, and the trash is hurting the environment's sanitary quality.
"I don't think we can allow the environmental side of this to drain into the river," said Ley.
Ley says the trash is also a detriment to the overall look of the wilderness.
"This is a jewel for New Mexico in my mind, this is home," said Ley.
The Upper Pecos Watershed and Business Associations are now asking the Forest Service to reopen the facilities.
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