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Protect your rights to recreate on rivers: Help prevent littering!
Littering on rivers is one of the main arguments made by landowners for shutting down public access. *Photo courtesy of Dedleg.
One of the main arguments landowners use in trying to keep the public off of a certain section of river is the claim that the public trashes and destroys the natural beauty of the river, so keeping a river private protects it from this public harm. Littering and obnoxious behavior, often from drinking, play a key role in this issue.
The fatal shooting on the Meramec River in Missouri this summer is an important example. News reports said, “Drinking is sometimes part of the outings, resulting in bawdy behavior that doesn't sit well with owners of land that touches the river. Many have complained for years about loud parties, trash left behind and crude behavior.” (The Washington Post).
It was not just James Crocker (the alleged shooter) who had been irritated by this, but also his neighbors. They have been irritated by garbage and rude behavior by river users for years. This is certainly understandable: If you owned property along a river, you wouldn't want to see it littered, or have to put up with rude behavior.
Do your part
So instead of overlooking this common problem, let’s address it and do our best to stop it. When we all do our part, we can enjoy a shared better world.
The unfortunate reality is that where the public goes, trash tends to follow. We have all seen litter along highways and in public parks. But it doesn't have to be that way on rivers. There are thousands of miles of rivers that don't have significant amounts of litter along them, even though they are regularly used by the public. What's the difference between the trashed rivers and the clean rivers? It's the ethic and spirit that existing river users pass on to new river users. When we help new river users understand the importance of not littering, we make a big difference. When we help with river clean-ups, and help create respect for river environments and aesthetics, then we help make river recreation more enjoyable, and we help deflate one of the main arguments used against public rights on rivers.
The law still stands
There is indeed a public easement to kayak, canoe, raft, fish, recreate, and walk along the banks of rivers nationwide, under federal law. However, public rights on rivers need to withstand political and legal challenges in the years ahead. To help preserve public rights on rivers for generations to come, each of us needs to help stop and reverse the trend, on some rivers, toward littering and obnoxious behavior.
"The care of rivers is not a question of rivers, but of the human heart." - Tanako Shozo
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