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Winkeler: Reaching the litter breaking point

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The slow-burn eruption came last Thursday morning.

Although it was just Beau, my golden retriever and I, on the Tunnel Hill Trail in Harrisburg, I railed in anger at the litter. Poor Beau thought he was the object of my ire.

We walk Beau along the trail nearly every day — only blizzards or torrential downpours keep us from our appointed rounds. And, fortunately, litter bugs aren’t as hearty. The litter problem subsides substantially during inclement weather.

But, in recent weeks the litter has increased, resulting in a corresponding spike in my blood pressure.

There is one particular person, I don’t know if it is a he or a she, a youngster or a senior citizen, that really has me steamed.

This person buys about 20 lottery tickets several days a week. This compulsive gambler apparently scratches off the tickets as he/she walks the trail. The losing tickets are discarded as they walk.

OK, I can understand a person getting lost in their thoughts as they walk and thoughtlessly discarding a soft drink bottle of a candy wrapper. That happens.

On the other hand, the lottery player is a wanton, serial litterer. The losing tickets are spread out over a half-mile section of the trail several times a week. That can’t be dismissed as careless.

It can, however, be described as uncaring, thoughtless and rude.

What kind of person does such a thing? Are they completely oblivious about sharing the planet with other human beings? Aren’t they aware that someone has to clean up after them?

And, while this section of the Tunnel Hill Trail isn’t necessarily scenic, no one wants to see the garbage. And, despite the less than rural setting, it’s not unusual to see wildlife — killdeer, kestrels, red-tailed hawks, rabbits, bluebirds, robins, purple martins, cardinals, mourning doves, Eurasian collared doves, Canada geese, crows and other species are seen regularly along the trail.

The bottom line — there is no plausible reason to be this careless.

Regardless of who this serial litterer is, I’m pretty sure you are wearing some type of clothing. I haven’t read any reports of nude hikers in Harrisburg — stuff the losing tickets in a pocket until you get home. Or, an even more novel suggestion — use one of the trash cans along the trail.

Your behavior is disgusting.

If that isn’t bad enough, the parking areas along the trail are apparently indistinguishable from landfills. Be prepared to step through discarded fast food bags, empty soft drink cups and energy drink cans if you use one of the parking areas.

It doesn’t taken any more effort to carry the garbage from your car to a trash can at your home than to toss it out the window.

Other people use the trail. If you can’t respect other human beings, at least respect nature.

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, or call 618-351-5088 /On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, or call 618-351-5088 /On Twitter @LesWinkeler.


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