Picking up litter is unfortunately an ongoing task in every national park, and employees and volunteers aren't surprised by cans, bottles and food wrappers left by careless visitors along roads and trails. Golf balls, however, are an unusual form of litter, especially if they keep showing up in large numbers.
Authorities at Joshua Tree National Park in California have nabbed a man believed responsible for scattering thousands of the balls and other items during repeat visits to the park.
According to park spokesman Joe Zarki, a 57-year-old man has been coming into the park at intervals since 2007 and tossing golf balls out of his vehicle. Just for a little variety, he may have added some tennis balls, left cans of fruit and vegetables along the road, and littered the landscape with park literature.
The problem didn't occur every day, but frequently enough that it soon began to catch the attention of the park staff. By the time the individual responsible was identified and contacted by rangers, the number of golf balls strewn across the park landscape may have reached the 3,000 mark.
When confronted by rangers last month, Douglas Jones admitted that he had scattered the balls in the park because he "wanted to leave his mark and honor deceased golfers." The cans of fruit and vegetables were reportedly left alongside park roads for benefit of any hikers who might find themselves stranded in the area.
Park spokesman Zarki said the park has spent an estimated $9,000 since 2007 cleaning up the litter and investigating the incidents. That figure represents 372 hours in staff time by the park's maintenance and law enforcement divisions.
Jones was cited by rangers and released. He's scheduled to appear before a U. S. Magistrate later this month.