Pack it In-Pack it Out Anglers in Southwest Florida are enthusiastic about the beauty and the fishing opportunities available here. Even non-anglers that kayak, canoe or enjoy exploring on a SUP can enjoy the miles of back country water within an easy paddle from a nearby launch. Folks that enjoy walking or running on the endless trails and paths provided in our area parks can enjoy the pristine woodlands just a few feet from the growing population centers around Englewood. The issue lies with the minority of people that enjoy being outside but are too lazy to take care of their own trash. You don’t have to look further than straight down at your feet to see the problem. If people have walked here before you, there is a good chance you’re standing on their trash. One has to get pretty far back in the swamp to escape the accumulated trash that is left behind after folks are done “enjoying” the outdoors. “Isn’t this beautiful,” they say as they turn away towards their car and toss a can over their shoulder for the next visitor to experience. In spite of all the trash receptacles and recycle bins available at nearly every launch and trail head, people are still too lazy to pack their own trash out of the woods. Having hiked and paddled extensively in this area, we are constantly disappointed by the amount of litter we pick up during our outings. We are also gratified when we see others concerned enough to do the same. We’re not talking about an isolated item blowing off a boat to an inaccessible spot. We’re upset by the intentional littering that follows some folks as they “experience” the outdoors. Have you ever wondered why there are so many no trespassing and no fishing signs at most accessible spots? A short visit to most shoreline fishing spots like piers, bridges and residential waterways will answer any questions you might have. Anglers are not the only offenders, but their trash can have serious environmental consequences. You wouldn’t want fishermen to make a dump out of your back yard either. The most obvious and dangerous problem we see is the negligent discarding of fishing line. Despite years of educational efforts about this issue, it still persists and gives all anglers a bad reputation. You don’t have to be an angler to see birds maimed and killed by this stupidity. 100 yards of fishing line tangled in the mangroves can kill numerous birds over a period of years. If the line has a hook or lure at the end, it further amplifies the problem. Neither Kim or myself can paddle by or walk past trash we find while kayak or shore angling. Picking up this trash makes us feel like good stewards of the spots we love and are trying to keep clean to save wildlife. On a slow day of fishing, this trash may be the only “keepers” we bring home for proper disposal. Which one of us can collect the most will win the trash tournament on that day. Folks that don’t hike the trails or paddle the inshore waters can help just by picking up trash around their home or neighborhood. We take a morning walk around our neighborhood for exercise and pick up stuff as we go. The result is a much nicer looking area that folks will not mistake for a dump and hopefully will not feel obligated to add to the pile. It’s not too much to ask that if you enjoy a particular spot, please don’t spoil it for the next guy or even yourself if you return. While standing in garbage, it’s hard to feel inspired by the beauty that surrounds us. So, the next time you wander, wherever you wander, take along a plastic grocery bag and pick up stuff you find. When you look behind you, you’ll see a prettier spot you helped create. And don’t leave tangled fishing line and hooks behind. You just might save the life of a bird or other wild animal from a slow and agonizing death. Try it, you’ll feel good when you do.