Don’t let reveling ruin nature

It’s as simple as removing shoes when entering a friend’s home, but for some reason throngs of visitors to the Grand Traverse region don’t see fit to pick up after themselves. Most who flock to northern Michigan’s breathtaking natural places take thoughtful steps to “leave no trace” as they enjoy the outdoors, some even plying miles of beach and forest, picking up any bit of trash that crosses their path.

Yet left and right there is abundant evidence of those less committed to preserving our natural resources.

We’ve all seen it, the beachgoing family that leaves behind food wrappers and drink bottles or the sandbar revelers who set their empty cigarette butts and beer cans adrift. Those thousands of small piles of refuse discarded into our pristine natural areas adds up to one big threat.

Few could forget the mountain of garbage left behind by National Cherry Festival revelers a few years ago on West End Beach. Or the hundreds of cans, bottles, wrappers, cellphones and other detritus deposited on the Torch Lake sandbar following a massive Fourth of July party in 2015. But those relatively infrequent massive dumps likely aren’t as big a threat as the day-to-day dumping that adds up to a big trash problem.

Much more common are flippant nicks that threaten to doom our natural resources to slow death by 1,000 cuts. Behaviors like the 200 balloons ignorantly released into the air by children attending a summer camp near South Haven.

Probably more concerning than the balloon littering itself — an event that rained rubber refuse in our backyard — was the organizers’ apparent ignorance of the detrimental lesson they conveyed to hundreds of children.

“We had no clue what’s going on with the beachfront and the environment,” said Abraham Frank, the camp’s manager. Unfortunately, that less-than-perceptive perception of the woes facing the Great Lakes isn’t rare.

Researchers from Rhode Island Institute of Technology estimate a total of about 22 million pounds of new plastic trash makes its way into the Great Lakes each year. Lake Michigan is the worst impacted. Those studies indicate enough plastic bottles to fill about 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools are discarded into the lake that wraps its arms around the Grand Traverse region and provides the lifeblood for countless communities.

We have no hope of reversing those numbers if everyone isn’t committed to setting positive examples for the next generation.

Because whether you’re a tourist, native or anywhere between, we all have a stake in preserving this place we all so cherish.

— The Traverse City Record-Eagle