June 15, 2020
By Stephanie Stone, Scripps National Correspondent

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. – Some public lands are closing again, but not because of the coronavirus, because of litter and huge crowds.

Paradise Falls, a hidden waterfall in Ventura County, California, was packed on Memorial Day weekend. Brian Stark, Administrator for the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency says, “the pool under the falls is only slightly larger than the residential swimming pool, so imagine your swimming pool in your yard with several thousand people coming through it in a day.”

He says those thousands of people also brought thousands of pounds of trash to the 40-foot waterfall.

“People were trampling the wetland vegetation to get to the other side, we were taking multiple truckloads of garbage out daily and people brought a BBQ there and we have high fire danger areas,” said Stark.

When we asked what kind of trash was left behind, Stark said, “people brought picnics and normally a hiker might bring an energy bar, not a box of pizza.”

They treated the small waterfall like it was their personal space. And they stayed. So, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency, which looks after the falls and the surrounding park, decided to close the falls indefinitely. A fence sits around it now, and rangers routinely check in. Initially, police had to turn people away.

‘“We just didn’t have the capacity to manage those crowds while protecting the resource.”

Paradise Falls wasn’t the only area with problems that weekend. Galveston Island in Texas, posted on Social Media that their team collected 156,000 pounds of trash on its beaches. Helen Lowman, President and CEO of “Keep America Beautiful,” says it’s a problem that the organization has been managing for 68 years.

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