County launches clean-parks effort in time for summer

SNOHOMISH — Summer is just around the corner, and Snohomish County Parks is preparing for an influx of visitors. On Friday, county officials celebrated the coming months of warm weather with the unveiling of a new spray pad at Willis Tucker Community Park and the introduction of the “Pack It In, Pack It Out” campaign.

County Executive John Lovick was present for the event and offered his support for “Pack It In, Pack It Out.”

“Our parks will be cleaner and our parks resources will go farther with the public’s help to keep our parks beautiful,” said Lovick.

The “Pack It In, Pack It Out” campaign encourages visitors to bring the garbage they generate while enjoying the park back home rather than disposing waste in the parks’ garbage cans or dumpsters. Some 4.7 million Snohomish County Parks visitors leave 346 tons of garbage behind each year. If no changes are made, the tonnage from park visitors is expected to reach 425 tons by 2021.

The campaign aims to cut park waste by 6 percent annually. To support “Pack It In, Pack It Out,” parks officials plan to reduce the amount of garbage cans available in the parks.

According to Snohomish County Parks Division manager Russ Bosanko, the logic behind the changes is based on a Waste Management calculation that 98.75 percent of Snohomish County households recycle. By encouraging park visitors to bring their garbage home after their visit, the waste has a higher chance of being properly recycled.

Garrison Marr, an energy and resource conservation specialist for the Snohomish County Executive’s Office, says a lot of the parks do not have the capacity to recycle on site.

“One of the things we are most interested in is the ability to increase landfill diversion,” said Marr.

With the implementation of “Pack It In, Pack It Out,” 68 tons of waste is to be diverted from landfills over the course of seven years.

The program was tested in three parks before the official debut on Friday. One was Willis Tucker Community Park. With the removal of many garbage cans, county officials wanted to ensure that the missing waste receptacles did not cause an increase in litter.

The test runs were successful and after Friday’s reveal, the “Pack It In, Pack It Out” campaign will be implemented in all 105 parks in Snohomish County on a rolling process.

Bosanko hopes that the number of garbage cans — the highest estimate is about 500 — can be reduced to 75 by the end of summer. “Pack It In, Pack It Out” is expected to reach all parks by spring 2015.

After reducing garbage can servicing, more than $200,000 will be shaved off the park’s resources. According to Bosanko, these extra funds will be used to support rangers as they offer interpretive and education events during the summer months.

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