Easter Campers Leave Piles of Trash in Brackenridge Park – Again

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Community service volunteer John County throws another bag of trash on top of others at Brackenridge Park. Photo by Scott Ball.

Community service volunteer John County throws another bag of trash on top of others at Brackenridge Park. Photo by Scott Ball.

The sound of conjunto music and the smell of smoking barbecue pits filled the air at Brackenridge Park on Easter Sunday. Children raced along the trails near the river on bikes and scooters, and a friendly game of kickball took place on the nearby baseball diamond.

The weather was nearly perfect for the festivities that drew hundreds of San Antonians to the park, an annual tradition at Brackenridge Park going back decades. Even with the large turnout of the weekend campers and visitors, the amount of litter throughout the park during Sunday’s early afternoon appeared to be more under control than most seasoned Easter campers anticipated.

“This year is pretty clean,” Jason Bernal said on Sunday. Bernal has been camping at the park during Easter weekend for years. He and other campers said members of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy as well as the City Parks and Recreation Department frequently visited campsites throughout the weekend to distribute large trash bags for litter and clear, plastic bags for recyclables.

But as the Easter afternoon light began to fade into darkness, and families began packing up their campsites to return home, it became more clear that the weekend’s celebrations at Brackenridge would, once again, leave its mark on many of the park’s green spaces.

Monday morning around 7:30 a.m., volunteers and City employees arrived at the park with trash pickers in hand and began collecting stray soda cans, plastic bags, leftover food, and other items strewn about the park into large trash bags. Cascarón confetti covered the ground, a sight that will be more common as Fiesta celebrations start in April, and islands of trash blown out of cans overnight floated in the river nearby. Opportunistic birds and wildlife lurked around garbage heaps, picking at half-eaten barbecue bones.

While some campsites had contained their garbage in distinct areas near the trash cans, others were left as is, with plates, napkins, cans, and food left on the picnic tables as if someone would soon be returning.

But, except for the park’s cleanup crew, no one did.

Considering the more than 40-year tradition of Easter camping at Brackenridge Park, one might think a better trash strategy or awareness effort would be deployed by now.

“I’m not exactly surprised (about the amount of trash), I was warned about it,” said Laura Gomez, a City Special Projects employee. “Our parks are enjoyed by our constituents, but then they leave them all trashed, so we’re out here with a whole army of our employees (to help clean).”

City employee Laura Gomez picks up litter left behind from Easter campers at Brackenridge Park. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

City employee Laura Gomez picks up litter left behind from Easter campers at Brackenridge Park. Photo by Scott Ball.

Other City employees like electricians and plumbers also took part in Monday morning’s clean-up, she said. “It’s a team effort.”

According to Homer Garcia, City Parks and Recreation acting assistant director, the department has held community-wide meetings in the past to raise awareness of the importance of controlling litter during Easter weekend at the park, but this year they focused most of their awareness efforts on social media. They also made sure their volunteers frequently distributed trash and recycling bags around the park throughout the weekend, he said. Judging by the park’s condition on Monday morning, people either ran out of bags, or simply didn’t care about properly disposing of their waste.

Mike Creese heads out to Brackenridge Park twice a week to birdwatch in the early mornings. As someone who comes to enjoy the park and its inhabitants in their natural beauty, he thinks more can be done to control the large amounts of garbage littered throughout the area after the Easter weekend camping.

“I think (the Parks and Recreation department) ought to charge campers for tables and all, so that way they’ll have a little bit more control (of the trash),” he said. “They should take a deposit and if the people didn’t clean up after themselves then they lose their deposit.”

Creese stands for a photo underneath the tree that he birds in and is currently nesting Yellow-crowned Night-heron. Photo by Scott Ball.

Mike Creese stands for a photo underneath the tree that he birds in and is currently nesting Yellow-crowned Night-heron. Photo by Scott Ball.

At least one Parks and Recreation employee at the park said that this year appeared to be better in terms of the amount of garbage left on the park’s open fields, but not by much.

“Every year is the same thing,” he said.

Garcia did not know the amount of trash collected from last year’s Easter celebrations, but in 2012 they collected a little over five tons of trash and 1,000 pounds of recycling, he said.

By Monday afternoon, almost all of the trash left by Sunday campers will be gone, and the 340-acre green space will be largely restored to its previous condition.

But the sight of the park in the early Monday morning light made it clear that decreasing such widespread littering will likely take more than providing free trash bags for park campers. A shift in culture in regards to respecting natural areas is essential, Gomez said.

“I think a lot of it has to be education, especially with the younger generations,” she said. “They need to enjoy the parks, but also be aware that they need to clean up after themselves.”

Caution tape, a piñata, and litter is strewn across grass at Brackenridge Park. Photo by Scott Ball.

Caution tape, a piñata, and litter is strewn across grass at Brackenridge Park. Photo by Scott Ball.




Top image: Community service volunteer John County throws another bag of trash on top of others at Brackenridge Park.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

Easter Weekend Campers Stake Their Claims at Brackenridge Park

Post-Easter Trash: Cleanup at Brackenridge Park

Gallery: Easter in Brackenridge Park by Corey Leamon

Brackenridge Park: San Antonio’s Neglected Crown Jewel

45 thoughts on “Easter Campers Leave Piles of Trash in Brackenridge Park – Again

  1. Prohibit camping until they can learn to clean up after themselves, or collect a large deposit like Mr. Creese stated.

    • Seriously? Who is to blame? The folks who leave their trash laying around on the ground are to blame. It is called personal responsibility. It is truly sad that there are so many adults in the city that lack this basic characteristic. They should be ashamed of themselves for acting like four year old’s who don’t clean up after themselves and expecting someone else to come along after them and pick up their trash. It is infuriating and no one should be making excuses for anyone (other than a four year old) that exhibits this kind of behavior. This is not the government’s responsibility.

  2. Sad but yawn. You can take some people out of the third world, but you can’t take the third world out of some people.

  3. San Antonio has a litter problem all year round and not just at parks during Easter! I see people throw trash out their car windows, etc all of the time! We need stiffer fines and more education of the masses.

    • Agreed! I was at a stoplight and saw the back door of the car in front of me open. A hand with a soda can in it came out and gently set the soda can on the street. ON THE STREET. What the what?

      So – still at stoplight – I hopped out of my car, picked up the can, knocked on the window, and said, “I believe you accidentally littered”. The woman was probably about my age (NOT a young person – in her late 40s, for sure), and acted all surprised that someone was calling her on her littering.

      People are pigs. Not ALL people, but yeah. Why is it hard to find a trash can or recycling bin? And if you’re in a public place (I’m looking at you, Fiesta parade goers), bring your own trash bag and recycling bag!

  4. San Antonio has some of the trashiest people on earth. I see them constantly throwing stuff out of their cars, or dropping trash as they walk. It’s horrible. Trash Fiesta is approaching… The streets will be filled with thousands of pounds of trash from the best of the best litterers.

  5. I think it means we create an atmosphere of change while still allowing the tradition to continue. This means temporary signs posted across the parks and warnings of fines, and handouts of trash bags and possibly volunteers to do sweeps through the parks making sure folks follow the public rules. I think there is a way to do it by creating a feeling of pride that everyone can buy into.

  6. Yeah, this happens every day might I add…. I live near brackenridge and almost every day I see either a party happening or just people hanging around at the park. During the evening hours I walk my dog and I see trash and dirty pampers just thrown around the parking lot. I’m not sure why people just don’t want to throw their thrash away. I absolutely believe that when the wind blows a piece of trash away no one cares. And it is upsetting.

  7. All they have to do is charge a deposit, and if the people don’t clean up, they lose their deposit. AND, they lose their privilege for the next year. I don’t understand why it’s so damned hard to simply pick up after yourself!?

  8. We live near the park and have been watching this mess year after year. The first problem is lack of accountability for the park users. Come on, you’re so proud of the fact you’ve been going to the park for 30 years and you don’t know by now that the park trash facilities are inadequate??? BRING YOUR OWN TRASH CONTAINERS AND CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS. What a teaching opportunity for the children–have a contest to see which kid can pick up the most trash, demonstrate how to leave a campsite clean, be a role model for your kids! The second problem is inadequate trash containers–they are too small year round but especially during Easter. Some years back the city or someone positioned a big trash dumpster near the Joske Pavilion, didn’t see it there this year. But I completely agree that the park users have to be held accountable for their own mess. Every solution is labor intensive but no more so than the labor required to pick up the mess afterwards. So let’s get that trash deposit–they only get it back if there is no trash to be picked up when they leave (confetti doesn’t count.) And THEY have to prove they’ve left the area clean (photos emailed to the park staff to get deposit back? Be checked out by a city park staff member?) Someone smarter than me can come up with the best mechanics but I think it’s time to hold the park users accountable in a way that has teeth–money!

  9. This would be a perfect way for those on government assistance who have shown no efforts to obtain employment, to continue to gain federal assistance. Why not make those who haven’t made efforts to seek employment earn their government assistance. You’ll see how quickly they will be employed if this was the case

  10. Experimental Aircraft Association convention in Oshkosh, WI attracts thousands of campers. At the end of the week long event there is not ONE piece of trash on the ground. We are vigilant and very proud of this fact. It makes me sick to think San Antonio allows this to happen year after year. I say Ban Camping in the park and enlist the National Guard to enforce the ban. It is possible; it is a matter of pride, common sense, and decency. What an example for the children of those people who will grow up with the same mentality as the parents.

  11. City Council doesn’t care because they aren’t the ones having to clean it up. If volunteers stopped volunteering things would change. Absolutely ridiculous that they allow this to happen year after year and people can’t clean up after themselves. They should be ashamed of teaching their children to be trashy as well.

  12. Simple solution: charge for permits for areas/tables, money 100% refunded to permit holder after a park rep inspects the site. Easy.
    Appalling that people teach their children to neglect themselves and the environment.

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