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Joshua Tree National Park Nabs Man Accused of Scattering Thousands of Golf Balls in the Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park's scenery is a lot nicer without the addition of litter in any form. Photo by planetc1 via Creative Commons and flickkr.

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.


I was also a bit confused by the article and was very happy to learn that Joe Zarki was not the perp in this case. That has to be the same Joe Zarki (I really don't think there are a large number of them around . . .) who was one of the rangers who spent a wonderful week chaperoning my 4th and 5th grade class from Snowville school when we were the first school group to take advantage of Expedition Yellowstone back in 1986.

I hope he's had a great career with NPS.

A nod to Mark for his lol-inducing remark. ;-)

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park deals with the cleanup of assorted "offerings to Pele" that are scattered all around. Sometimes it's just a ti leaf around a rock, but often it's fruit, alcoholic beverages, or even meat. They not only have problems with litter, but it's creating a problem with the local wildlife.

Thanks for the correction.

Actually, Joe Zarki works for the park. He was detailing the episode to Jim. He wasn't the one throwing golf balls.

Zarki is just an extreme example of what all-too-many do while visiting public lands. There seems to be a basic drive to mark your territory while in a new natural area. People who climb mountains frequently pile rocks on top of one another as a way to memorialize their visit or carve their initials into a tree or face of a rock wall. It's the equivalent of a dog urinating on a tree to tell other dogs that it has been there. Ideally, wild areas should be left unmarked by human graffiti. Each visitor should have the opportunity to see and experience a natural area without man made distractions.

It takes a lot of balls to pull a stunt like that.

Someone had to say it.


The Coachella Valley is full of golf courses surrounded by public (BLM) land; I know several places I could collect >1 ball per minute (I'm not as sure about locations for used tennis balls, but I'd start at Whitewater Wash by Indian Wells). Plus, there's always used balls collected from the water hazards that can be had for less than $1 each.

I'd let Douglas Jones* off with a requirement that he pick up enough Brassica Tournefortii seeds to equal the weight of all those golf balls. The folks at Joshua Tree might not be so forgiving...

* edited because Joe Zarki is actually the JOTR spokesman, not the accused. See:,0,1155524...

Also, the last line in the LA Times story indicates that Douglas Jones worked at a golf course, so he'd get golf balls with even less effort than my walking BLM land.

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