Pigs on the peninsula: Visitors’ trash infuriates residents who do yearly cleanup

Voices of the Clarion

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2007

Summer is a time for returns. Plants and trees return to a being green and vibrant, birds return to breed and nest, and salmon return from the sea to spawn in local rivers.

While all of these are elegant examples of annual summer occurrences, there is one return that is far from aesthetically pleasing. It is the return of the summer pigs.

Don’t be confused, though. These are not swine, wild or domestic. The pigs I’m referring to are the human animals that through their temporary residence during June and July, convert our natural areas into dirty and disgusting styes.

A quintessential example of one of these pigs currently can be seen in my neighborhood. Roughly five miles down south Cohoe Loop Road there is piece of undeveloped property — owned by the state — that is an always popular place with residents, visitors from other parts of the state and tourists.

Roughly 80 percent of the people who recreate in this area, do so responsibly, leaving little to no trace they were ever there. Local kids like to swim in a small pond there on hot days. A trail around the pond is popular with joggers, people walking their dogs and riders of horses and all-terrain vehicles. Occasionally, during the sockeye fishing season, a few folks also pitch tents or set up trailers on the property to camp free of charge.

Everyone in the neighborhood is familiar with the annual activity at this site, and every year there is a small mess to clean up afterward that we grimace and bear. This litter is usually in the form of spent shell casings from people shooting at plastic soda bottles or glass beer bottles that they float across the pond and then shoot at for “fun.” This debris also must be cleaned up after the interlopers leave, but in the interim it serves as an obstacles for locals to be wary of.

Every year I wade into the pond several times to clean the broken glass sticking up dangerously from the muddy bottom in the hope of preventing injuries to others. Yet, my neighbor’s son who swims there regularly said the other day, “I cut my foot there at least once a year. I’ve just come to accept it.”

In truth, like this boy, many of us in the neighborhood have come to accept this problem. This year, though, a pig rivalling all past years porcine, has set up a personal pen at this site, and with each passing day the area grows a little more disgusting.

They’ve really made themselves at home, having parked their tow-behind travel-trailer at the pull-in for the pond and plugged in a generator on a nearby bank to run their operation. Neither of these two things is unusual or offensive, rather it’s what they do while living there that is so distasteful.

With each passing day there are more empty cigarette packs and cardboard beer cases, crushed cans and broken bottles discarded just feet from the trailer. There also are scraps of wrapper and utensils from whatever they had for dinner the night before. Also, and most disgustingly, there are the turds and crumpled toilet paper just a few yards away in the bushes and, of course, within run-off distance from the pond.

This is the reason I believe they have earned their “pig” moniker. Like their animal brethren, these proverbial pigs are invasive pests that cause environmental damage and very well may end up spreading disease.

It’s unfathomable to me how someone could litter like this anywhere, but particularly in beautifully wooded area with a frequently duck-filled pond, that they have obviously chosen for its natural amenities. Another sad irony is these transient pigs return not more than a month from when year-round residents of the Kenai Peninsula hold their annual cleanup days to fill yellow bags with trash and debris from neighborhoods, highways and byways.

I can only conclude people, like this pig, make messes out of ignorance and disrespect. They lack the knowledge of the environmental effects of their actions and, since they don’t live here year-round, they hold no sense of pride about the area they are littering in. To them it’s just an outdoor hotel room, where they can do what they want, make a huge mess and leave it for someone else to clean up.

Asking the pigs to clean up after themselves has done little good, and the Alaska State Troopers often are too busy dealing with other more severe issues to respond every time someone calls to complain about these people that are too stupid to realize breaking glass where they too swim is a bad idea. Seemingly, all that the Cohoe Loopers can do is watch their step — on land and in the water — while watching these pigs make bigger and bigger messes of the community we call home.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Clarion. He can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.

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