August 2011

Adopt a campground

By David Feela

“It’s not easy being green.” —Kermit the Frog

I never realized how difficult it is toting a political snack. All I’d planned was a short hike, no more than five miles round trip. I thought it wise to carry something extra along with me in case I got hungry. The granola bar looked like trail food ought to look – lightweight and edible – but about three miles down the trail I peeled away the foil and ate it. Now I’m hooked.

When I sat in the shade scrutinizing the list of ingredients off the wrapper, I never noticed, maybe because of the fine print – way down where the wrapper folds into its seam – the suggestion that mixed with the oats, brown sugar, almonds, honey, corn syrup, and whey came a political agenda. Since then I’ve become a helpless granola cruncher and there’s no turning back. That’s what happens when people snack indiscriminately. I should have chosen the jerky.

I’ve never had much interest in politics, but people who express a sympathy for the welfare of this planet have been called a litany of other names, including treehuggers, whining liberals, green weenies, hysterical liberal socialists, eco-terrorists, lemmings, and – believe it or not – Democrats!

As I hike the trails of our public lands, I try to think about treading more lightly on the earth. More carefully. People shouldn’t label environmentalists as bad guys for worrying about the impact a society has while taking its spin on this planet. All I want to do is feel my step grow fainter and fainter until I am no heavier than dust.

According to the Denver Post, public lands and their facilities are being re-evaluated and recommended for closure or decommissioning wherever those facilities are deemed “less profitable” or in “poor condition.” The system faces a multi-milliondollar backlog in maintenance and officials seeking financial salvation are putting their faith in volunteers or private groups willing to adopt some of their orphaned sites.

It’s a strategy we’ve already seen implemented beside our highways for trash pickup. For the price of a metal sign with “Your Name Here,” the highway department provides roadside maintenance. And the sad thing is that it works, thanks to the generosity of countless Americans who spend a few hours a month in their hiking boots, toting and filling trash bags.

I’m the profile for a guy willing to adopt a campground with a couple of my ecofriends, intent on becoming public land guardians. But I suspect I’d be given a garbage sack and toilet brush just to keep me from interfering with the administrators’ more worthwhile plans for development and profit. I mean, let’s get all the environmentalists together, exile them to outdated and poorly maintained ex-Forest Service facilities, and let’s get on with the work of building a civilization. Right?

I have a better idea. Why not just hand these lands back over to the public? Whoever heard of an adoption where the parent maintains legal custody of the child? I’ll cut the weeds, trim the trees, dust the rocks, empty the trash cans, firerings, toilets, and basically provide a nurturing natural atmosphere for the bugs, birds, and critters that live there.

You see, I don’t care for this government-sponsored foster-care approach. Being green is deeper than the color of an official uniform, and it means more than crunching revenue statistics. The trees need to see the future as something more than a boarding school. Ask me where I want my tax dollars spent and I’ll insist they support the smaller, less profitable sites, because it’s the massive, tourist-glutted mega-recreational destinations that need the tightening and toning, not the lean ones struggling with low occupancy rates. I mean, let’s get the cellulite off of Yosemite’s thighs.

Geez Louise! I can’t believe I just said that. I’m starting to sound like the jerky.

David Feela writes from Montezuma County, Colo.