The situation at the Gardner Lake State Park in Salem is intolerable, the actions of those who litter the facility without concern for others unacceptable. Once again a few individuals are proving humanity's penchant for ruining a good thing.
The facility, one of the newer state parks in Connecticut, is free, offering families access to the beautiful lake. But some have greeted this opportunity with slovenly behavior. When it comes to maintaining the parks for all, Connecticut has a sound State Park policy - carry out what you carried in. In other words, pick up your own trash and dispose of it properly. It is rooted in a more fundamental concept of common courtesy - leave a public place in the condition you found it so others can enjoy it.
Instead, it appears some of the visitors to the park are intent on ruining the experience for others. The advocacy group Friends of Gardner Lake reports a common problem of visitors leaving behind their trash, empty beer bottles, even abandoned grills and broken chairs.
Unfortunately, an appeal to human decency won't be enough to solve the problem. The state park service, part of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, has to come up with a plan to better police the park and encourage appropriate conduct. This could include better monitoring and intervention when visitors are not adhering to the rules to clean up as they leave. The state could provide better signage about park policies and proper trash disposal, printed in Spanish as well as English.
If that doesn't work, a weekend admission charge is worth considering, when the use of the park increases and the litter problems are more acute. A fee could discourage some of the worst offenders to stay away. But if a fee is imposed, it should come with increased supervision.
Some suggest closing the park to swimming, which would assure the crowds would dwindle and so the problem. But all other remedies need to be considered before such a drastic step is considered. The vast majority of people enjoying the facility act responsibly and it would be a shame to deny them that opportunity because of slothful behavior of others.