It's Thalen's Turn column: Leave it better than you found it

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

A heart is carved into a bench at the top of Inspiration Peak.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press
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When warmer weather finally pushes out the winter blues, getting outside becomes much more convenient and enjoyable. I look forward to this time of year.

My wife and I enjoy getting outside, finding new hikes across the state, and witnessing the world's beauty. So much so that we joined the Minnesota State Park and Trails Hiking Club — a program that awards hikers with patches and free nights of camping for accumulating miles that are tracked by recording passwords usually found toward the end of the trail. Each state park has its own designated club trail.

It is a great way to escape the siren song of the couch, breathe some fresh air, soak up the sun's vitamin D, get those steps up on your smart device, meet interesting people, and learn new things from the trail's kiosks while exploring the unique landscapes and terrain Minnesota offers. I highly recommend joining.

Anyway, we do not limit ourselves to only state parks. Any hike that offers breathtaking views and a chance to explore will do, which prompted my wife and I to check out Spruce Hill County Park.

Spruce Hill was the only Douglas County park we hadn't checked off. When we arrived, we were exposed to a common theme prevalent in most outdoor areas, trash — everywhere.


It wasn't a surprise, but it was still disheartening, to say the least, and it got me thinking...

As conscious beings, we are supposed to be stewards of this planet, yet, for some, properly disposing of trash is like pulling teeth. Now, grocery bags fly among the birds, plastic swims with the fish, and McDonald's bags bounce across the land like tumbleweeds in a western shootout.

A few years ago, I had to do a volunteer project for school. We had to find time out of our day and help the community in one way or another. I chose to put on rubber gloves, grab a roll of garbage bags and walk through parks picking up trash as I went. After an hour, I had filled four 60-gallon Hefty bags, and I could have probably filled more.

That project was an eye-opener for me as you really don't notice, or at least I didn't, how much trash pollutes the land. I decided then that when I take my children to playgrounds, we will each fill a garbage bag before we leave. Of course, for safety reasons, picking up sharp or pointy items will be the responsibility of either my wife or me.

The goal is to teach them that even if the trash is yours or not, do the responsible thing and clean up. And hopefully, they will do the same with their children, and other families will do this as well.

Leave it better than you found. A phrase common among outdoor enthusiasts because they are sick of embarking on their adventures to see nature's most beautiful displays tainted with trash. But, it is also a phrase you can apply to any situation.

With so much negativity being spread, God knows the world needs some good people capable of making the world a better place. It can start with you. Bring joy to people in need, take care of animals when you have the capability, give back to your community — leave it better than you found it.

We are shepherds of this world, and the Earth is home to us all. We should take care of it and who dwells within it.

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
This week in history in Douglas County.