NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s an ongoing problem that isn’t getting any better. With entertainment options limited, people are flocking to the Jemez to enjoy the forests. But, they’re leaving a huge mess that locals are having to clean up.
There are signs telling visitors that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, trash service is suspended. But, it’s not stopping people from leaving trash. Everything from picnic supplies to beer bottles, to masks and human waste, can be found scattered around the grounds. Samantha D’Anna lives nearby and said she saw the problem at it’s worst during Memorial Day weekend.
“I have never seen so many people in Jemez ever, and I’ve lived here 28 years,” she said. “It’s just people parking wherever they could, hanging out wherever they could even if it was closed, and just tons and tons of trash leftover.”
D’Anna is a professional photographer who often uses the mountains as a backdrop for her work, which is why she loves them and is taking matters into her own hands. She and a relative spent two days picking up trash in Jemez and La Cueva. In two days, D’Anna said they filled about 35 trash bags. Nearby residents want people to enjoy the Jemez but want them to keep it clean.
“There might be a trash can there but there’s a sign on it that says no trash pick up. So, if you leave your trash, I don’t know who people think are going to pick up after them but no one’s going to…it’s going to have to be someone like me or the residents and that’s not fair,” she said. “Educate yourself and be respectful. I mean enjoy it, everyone loves it up there. But you can’t enjoy it when you’re surrounded by trash.”
With locked trash bins, visitors are asked to pack up the trash they make and bring it with them. Residents said visitors are also lighting campfires despite the current ban on fires. D’Anna said many have reached out since her clean up and they plan to pick up litter again. She said ‘the work isn’t done.’
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