March 14, 2012
By Ned Kehde
The last weeks of winter are difficult on the eyes of some anglers who haunt the suburban and exurban reservoirs of northeastern Kansas.
The eyesores are caused by the transgressions of some of our fellow anglers and citizens who gather around and upon these waterways throughout the year.
These transgressions pivot around littering.
Some of these people seem to be merely unmindful litterers. Unfortunately, there seems to be an inexhaustible number of them.
Other litterers, however, seem to do it intentionally, and they are the worst. They often leave incredible mounds of it. It is not unusual to see a pile trash, consisting of scores of beer bottles and cans, several Styrofoam nightcrawler cartons, an array of plastic bags, bottles and cups, and a sundry of other unsightly objects. What's more, the number of intentional litterers seems to have grown dramatically during the past two decades.
If some mindful citizen doesn't happen along and remove this rubbish, the wind and waves ultimately scatter it every which way across and round the reservoirs.
This phenomenon seems to be similar to Jame Q. Wilson's "broken window" theory. Thus, one piece of litter seems to inextricably spawn more litter and a more disorderly environment.
One of the most egregious outcroppings of litter in northeastern Kansas occurred several years ago at a 160-acre reservoir, when a group of shoreline anglers hauled an overstuffed easy chair and loveseat to the water's edge. Of course, after their outing ended, these anglers didn't haul the chair and loveseat back home. So, the chair and loveseat sat at the water's edge for months on end. This spot was also blemished with piles of cans, cartons, sacks, clothing and a broken tackle box. Eventually the chair and loveseat somehow slid into the water. The chair sank to the bottom and was covered with 12 feet of water. For more than two years, the loveseat sat in two feet of water and cluttered a patch of American water willows. The loveseat was finally removed by the lake's fisheries biologist in the fall of 2o11. The chair, however, still sits at the bottom of the lake.
During the warm-water months the multitude of green leaves and sturdy stems of the American water willows hide a fair portion of this trash, as does the green and leafy terrestrial vegetation along the shorelines.
The blight, however, becomes a dispiriting sight many weeks before Old Man Winter's 89 days has runs its course. His frigid deeds wilt and gradually decompose the plant life along riparian zones and shorelines that encompass these waters. But once the strait, stout and viridescent stems of the American water willows become flaccid and khaki colored, the vast accumulations and scatterings of rubbish become a disheartening and almost omnipresent sight along the water's edges.
In years past, we have asked bass clubs, scout groups, civic organizations, environmental groups, and businesses if they would be interested in adopting some the shorelines at the reservoirs.
In addition, we wrote several letters to the editors of some local newspapers, calling attention to this blight and seeking help or suggestions on how to stem this constant onslaught of litter that besmears our public waters.
To our chagrin, we have failed to arouse any heartfelt public concern about this issue. For some odd reason the citizenry of Kansas is more concerned about adopting sections of roadways and removing the trash from them than doing something about the trash that defiles the shorelines of our reservoirs.
Therefore, we wonder if waterways elsewhere across the country have been cursed with as much trash as the ones in northeastern Kansas have been. And if they have, we would like to know what is being done or has been done to rectify this appalling problem in those locales.