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Can State Parks Keep Waste Out Of Landfills?

  • Eighty-three-year-old Ralph Deckett stood outside the Curt Gowdy State Park visitor center, broom in hand. Now retired from the FBI, Deckett spends much of his time looking after museums and recreation sites like Curt Gowdy, where he had been volunteering since the beginning of July.

    “We just try to keep it nice, the best we can around here. It’s amazing how people can trash out a place,” Deckett said.

    And Deckett is not alone. Driving around the park, Assistant Superintendent Darrell Richardson told me Curt Gowdy depends on volunteers like Deckett.

    “Our volunteer program is one of the biggest things we have going for us around here,” Richardson said.

    During the summer, Richardson said, Curt Gowdy’s campsites are full. The trails are well trafficked. And for many people, disposables are part of the outdoor experience.

    “It’s primarily paper, you know, people come camping and they’re going to have paper and cardboard,” Richardson said. “And then there’s a lot of cans, and I’m sure plastic bottles because everybody’s all into drinking bottled water anymore.”

    Curt Gowdy employs only two full-time staff and two part-time staff. About 20 volunteers and a few seasonal workers do the rest of the work picking up trash. To pay for that help, state parks use entrance fees and Wyoming’s general fund. According to Curt Gowdy Superintendent Bill Conner, waste disposal takes up about ten percent of the park’s budget.

    Each week, he said, a private company empties twenty dumpsters spread across the park and drops the waste in Cheyenne’s landfill. Richardson said he is not aware of any entities that could transport recycling from Curt Gowdy.

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