Green-up day

Our annual ritual.

Every year, since the children were small, we walk up River Road in early May, scanning the roadside brush for trash and debris as part of New Hampshire’s “Green-up day.” It’s a perfect time to do this – after the snow melts and before the undergrowth reappears. (Most importantly, before the poison ivy emerges.) Our kids were always eager participants, scampering down the roadside banks to fetch a soda can or a beer bottle, a cigarette pack or a shopping bag. It was a great lesson in the importance of community service, and the callous disregard of those who feel it is somehow appropriate to toss their fast-food bag and beer bottles into the roadside brush, perhaps imagining the river would wash it away. Today I ended up filling two large trash bags, of the special blue variety designated for this day; read on.

This year, we heard that other neighbors had scoured our usual section in the morning; so in early afternoon, when I turned my attention to the task, there was no point in following our usual route. I set out solo, away from the road and up the hill into my usual forest-ramble are, blue bag in hand, picking up the occasional tidbit of trash left by hunters (beer cans) or bears (styrofoam coolers). Soon, though, I descended to Shoestrap Road, a narrow dirt road that was once a formal street in the Town of Lyme but now an informal “Class VI” track no longer maintained by the town. Still visited by locals, it contours the side of the steep ravine formed by Hewes Brook and, apparently, attracts all manner of litter tossed downhill toward the brook. I scrambled carefully down the steep banks below the road, the rocky cascades of Hewes Brook roaring below me, warning me that a slip on this steep bank would not end well. The photo below, looking nearly straight down, doesn’t really convey the necessary vertigo.

There was plenty of trash to be found. Mostly beer bottles and cans, with occasional packets of fast food. Such a shame to see this debris in such a beautiful location; the white cascades of Hewes Brook are truly one of the gems of western Lyme, even in this dry, brown period before the green of spring brings the slopes back to life.

It wasn’t all food and drink. Household items, construction debris, and even a bag of sex toys lead one to wonder about the story behind those who chose this location to discard their debris. In one place, the partly-melted dashboard of an Arctic Cat snowmobile surely has a deeper story to tell.

Although I could not reach the decades of trash tossed into this part of the ravine, let alone remove it all, it nonetheless felt worthwhile to remove what I could. There’s more to remove next year.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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