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Lakes are no place for anglers' garbage

With warm weather and a deadline for fish house removal, anglers begin fishing "open ice" more often. Taking a few minutes to pick up trash on the ice, whether it's yours or not, contributes to the future health of the lakes. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

As anglers remove their permanent ice shelters from Minnesota lakes, diligence in leaving no trace behind is sometimes forgotten.

Avid campers and hikers often recite their golden rule, "If you pack it in, pack it out."

Yet judging by the debris left behind on the ice, some people want to enjoy what Mother Nature provides without taking care of the resource.

Are we really conservationists if we purchase a fishing license, keep only enough fish to eat, even releasing large fish of each species to retain genetic integrity, but fail to clean up after ourselves?

In my kindergarten classroom we have only a handful of rules, all of which are pertinent throughout life. The one that stands out in my mind is "If you make a mess, clean it up."

Now, if the 5- and 6-year-old kids in my classroom can adhere to that basic tenet of life, then adults should have no problem. And modeling that picking up after ourselves really doesn't take much time or energy, but is imperative for the health of our environment, is a value to pass on to future generations.

Every once in a while, my kindergarten classroom becomes extra messy. Maybe the scissors create a snowstorm of paper scraps on the floor or a bucket of crayons accidentally tips over. It's encouraging to see the youngsters come to the aid of one another and assist in picking things up -even if they had no involvement in making the mess.

The simple idea that the classroom is every student's to share and keep tidy is enough motivation for the children. It's that team approach and a sense of community that intrinsically drives the students to help.

Fortunately there are individuals and groups who are committed to the well- being of our woods and water who are also intrinsically motivated to help.

Take, for instance, the person who snatches up the candy wrapper somersaulting in the wind or an abandoned soda can resting in a snow bank.

We can all give thanks for the Park Rapids Dark House Association, which coordinates a group of well-doers to travel the icy terrain of Fish Hook Lake, gathering the forgotten trash from a single winter season, which often times fills the bed of a truck.

Yet imagine what that one lake might look like if that entire truck bed of refuse wasn't collected and the bottles, cans, wood and rubbish sank to the bottom each season.

And think how ridiculous it would be to see someone pulling up to the public access to dump an entire truckload of garbage directly into the lake. Yet cumulatively over the course of a few months of ice fishing, this is exactly what happens.

If you get an opportunity to thank the Park Rapids Chapter of Darkhouse and Spearing Association for picking up Fish Hook Lake, I urge you to do so.

And if you can invite a few friends to join you on an afternoon clean-up, I'll thank you in advance.