Trash Free Park

Trash Free Park Sign
Trash Free Park Sign

NPS Photo


In 2006, the C&O Canal adopted the Seven Principles of the Leave No Trace program. There are no trash barrels or dumpsters available at the C&O Canal. Visitors are encouraged to pack in and pack out any trash that they bring into the park.

What is a Trash Free Park?

It is a solid waste management strategy of removing trash receptacles from all or sections of a park. Visitors are expected to carry out the refuse they generate and dispose of it properly at home or at another appropriate destination. Integral to the concept is fostering a partnership between visitors and the parks by encouraging all visitors to help maintain clean parks, reduce solid waste within the park, and embrace the ideas of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

There are many other national park areas that have adopted this solid waste management strategy. Nearby, the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Prince William Forest Park, Catoctin Mountain Park, and Monocacy National Battlefield have trash free programs. State parks such as, Maryland State Parks and Forests, Delaware State Parks, Wisconsin State Parks, and Ohio State Parks have a long track record of trash free programs.

What should visitors do with their trash in the park?

Visitors are responsible for removing all refuse they generate in the park when they leave the park. Trash must be picked up and the area left in a clean condition before departure. Visitors are encouraged to come prepared when visiting the park. If they plan to picnic, barbecue, or in any way generate waste, they should plan ahead to provide the means to organize materials needed, and correctly package items and refuse, in order to efficiently remove it with them by the means in which they came - by walking, metro, bicycle, car, etc... The park encourages visitors to consider how they package items. Using materials that can be recycled or composted when they return home is a positive way to help the environment.



What are the benefits of being a trash free park?

A trash free program has many benefits, including:

  • Fostering a partnership between visitors and the park by encouraging people to take an active role in maintaining a trash-free park.
  • Encouraging people to adopt a carry in, carry out Leave No Trace principle.
  • Encouraging people to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
  • Reducing odors in the picnic area.
  • Increasing visitor safety by reducing the number of stinging insects, rodents, and other wildlife in the picnic area.
  • Allowing staff time and funds spent on trash collection to be applied to other projects and improvements within the park. (These projects include facility and grounds maintenance, and resource preservation.)
  • Reducing the amount of litter in the park.
  • Establishing a commitment to park sustainability and responsible park use that will carry on to future generations.

Ideas for Cutting Down on Waste


  • Buy durable, reusable picnic plates, cups, water bottles, and silverware. This eliminates plastic waste and saves money.
  • Repair instead of replace equipment like chairs and sports equipment.
  • Order your ice cream in an edible cone instead of a disposable cup.
  • When ordering a drink to go, ask the restaurant or cafe to put it in your reusable container.
  • Only take what you need and will use - extra napkins, straws, condiment packages, and other small items add up quickly when you have to carry them out!


  • Bring reusable tablecloths and cloth napkins.
  • Use reusable plates, cups, water bottles, and silverware.
  • Bring beverages in reusable containers. When ordering a drink to go, ask the restaurant or cafe to put it in your reusable container.


  • Separate recyclables from the rest of the trash and recycle them at home.
  • Ask your local collection service what items you can include in your home recycling bin.
  • Purchase products that are made from and packaged in recycled materials.
  • Start a compost heap or worm bin at home.

More Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the park decide to go to a Trash Free Park Program?

The National Park Service is responsible for managing park operations efficiently and sustainably. Department of Interior Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management calls for maintaining cost effective waste prevention and recycling programs in its facilities. Also, Executive Order 13514 and the Green Parks Plan require federal agencies to explore sustainable alternatives that reduce energy consumption and solid waste among other goals. Committing to a trash free park demonstrates our commitment to reducing the NPS waste stream.

  • It reduces the amount of money we have to spend on disposal.
  • It reduces fuel consumption associated with trash pick-ups and disposal.
  • It also reduces staff hours spent on trash removal and allows the park to allocate work hours to other important park functions and projects.

Does this program really work?

The Trash Free Park program encourages park visitors to make a personal commitment and have a stake in reducing solid waste in the park – they remove and dispose of their refuse outside of the park. If done properly, they will leave no trace. The program has been very successful on the C&O Canal! Well established park programs have shown average ranges of success between 80- 95%. This statistic means 80-95% of the people who visit Trash Free Parks are responsibly removing their refuse. We have seen this level of success in our park – well done everyone!

There are always exceptions. When visitors do not pack-in and pack-out their trash, the park must deal with the any trash left behind.

What do you do about the litter? People don’t always listen, and some leave their trash on the ground.

The park staff and volunteers have been and remain actively engaged in litter pick up in the park. This fact does not mean it is okay for people to package their refuse and leave it for the park to clean up. Visitors who leave trash behind are littering. This illegal activity is enforced by the United States Park Police and subject to penalty.

What am I supposed to do with my pet waste?

Park visitors will be expected to remove pet waste and dispose of it properly outside the park.

What do I do with my baby’s diaper?

There are a variety of handy products in the market for the travelling care of a baby or small children. Additionally, the park has multiple locations with dispensers of Trash Take Out Bags for visitor convenience to remove refuse generated while in the park.

What do I do with my large picnic group?

Larger groups consume and require larger resources. More planning will be involved to provide the materials necessary to pack out refuse. Plan well ahead of time. Bring enough supplies to remove your trash when you leave. If needed, the park has multiple locations with dispensers of Trash Take Out Bags for visitor convenience to remove refuse generated while in the park.

What does Carry In, Carry Out/Pack In, Pack Out Mean?

Carry In, Carry Out/Pack In, Pack Out is an outdoor ethic that coincides with familiar Leave No Trace (LNT) principles. The LNT message for front country parks (those places close to urban centers) on the matter of trash is similar to back country and wilderness areas. Pack it in, Pack it out. Put litter – even crumbs, peels and cores – in garbage bags and carry it home. Be sure to properly dispose of materials. Many items that are carried out should end up in the recycling bin. Food scraps can be composted.

Last updated: July 20, 2023

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142 W. Potomac St.
Williamsport, MD 21795



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