Two friends from Marietta were spotted on the trails at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Saturday doing what furloughed park rangers can’t: picking up litter.
Jena Campbell and Stephen Gaines, both personal trainers, took a stack of trash bags up the mountain and spent four and a half hours tidying the trail.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, I’ve been hiking that trail since I was a little kid, and there’s always trash,” Campbell said. “I’ve always wanted to do a cleanup like that, and the shutdown definitely made me want to do it more since there wasn’t going to be any trash pickup.”
The current partial government shutdown began last month and is now the longest in U.S. history. Arising over an impasse about spending billions of dollars on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the shutdown means federal employees from several departments, including national parks, are not working.
The result for Kennesaw Mountain has been locked restrooms, canceled events and garbage piling up around trash cans and on the trail.
Gaines said the trail was in worse shape than normal, but not as bad as some major National Parks such as Yellowstone, where visitors have reported huge piles of waste.
“It was definitely more than usual,” he said. “There were two different trash cans overflowing. Me and Jena actually hike it quite often. There was more trash on the side than we’ve seen before, but it was not so terrible. But we were glad we were out there.”
Campbell said the pair filled four tall trash bags, three from the trail and visitor center and one from a trashcan at the trailhead.
“There were a lot of food wrappers. We found like three diapers, that was pretty gross, then a ton of dog poop, a ton of water bottles, some glass, gloves,” Campbell said.
Campbell, who also works in freight logistics, said the trail was packed with hikers, many of whom expressed gratitude to the pair.
“Some of them gave us a heads-up on trash along the way, some of them gave us their trash,” she said.
Gaines said there were a couple other groups cleaning up the trails, and the two heard about volunteers coming out the prior weekend.
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said he was happy to hear about the community efforts, but not surprised.
“It sure tickles me because it belongs to all of us,” he said. “It’s that good American spirit … People love and respect the park, and it’s not surprising they’d go the extra mile.”
Cobb Police recommend taking extra caution during the shutdown because no rangers will be present in case of trouble. Tell a friend before you go on the trail, bring a fully charged cell phone and call 911 if you see anything suspicious.
Talks between the White House and Congressional leaders have made little progress toward ending the shutdown. President Donald Trump told reporters earlier this month that the shutdown could last “months or even years.”
But Campbell and Gaines said they and others will keep hitting the trail to keep the park looking nice.
“We’re definitely going next weekend to see if we need to help again,” Gaines said. “Thankfully, people are stepping up … we don’t want to see our parks in a state that would ruin what we love about them.”