I’d just put someone’s paper plate, tossed out of a vehicle onto my woodlot, into my trash bag, when I noticed an army of ants crawling out of the bag and up my arm. The ants had been finishing up the picnic lunch, I guess.

And that is the moment when I decided to post my woodlot. No trespassing for road slobs!

I’ve now taken three walks up the road to the woodlot to pick up trash. I own 150 acres with almost 2,000 feet of road frontage. I’ve filled four big bags with trash so far and I’m not finished. I’ve also brought home tires and construction debris and even part of the hood of a car.

And I can tell you this: Road slobs drink Bud Light and smoke Marlboro cigarettes. They also eat a lot of fast food, which apparently runs out just when they get to my Mount Vernon woodlot. McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts are their restaurants of choice.

But the variety of stuff I’ve collected is kind of amazing. Last year, I found an empty package of condoms. The wording was in a foreign language, but I knew right off what it was. The cover featured a photo of a couple engaged in, ahem, well you know.

Yes, picking up other people’s trash, cast carelessly out the window of their vehicles onto my woodlot, is a never-ending enterprise. It’s disgusting and disappointing.

And it may become a frequent necessity in Waterville, thanks to the pay-as-you-throw requirement. Amy Calder’s photo in the Sept. 9 newspaper of the garbage left behind after city trash crews finished their work on Edwards Street in Waterville — because it was not in the pre-paid bags required by the city — was all you needed to know.

What a mess! And now that mess will be spread all over the streets of the city, or dropped off on woodlots throughout the area.

City officials were pleased that a lot less trash was collected that day, 6.59 tons compared to the usual 17.24 tons. Well, that doesn’t mean 17.24 tons weren’t generated by the people of Waterville. It means there are 10 tons of waste out there that will be going someplace else. And yes, some of it will be recycled, but a lot cannot or will not be.

Maine’s returnable bottle bill has been successful because it pays people to return their bottles to a redemption center. Do you think it would work as well — or at all — if we forced people to pay to return those same bottles to the dump? The city is simply shifting the burden of waste disposal onto landowners in and outside their jurisdiction.

The Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine will tell you that littering and trash dumping is the No. 1 complaint of private landowners — and a major reason that land is posted No Trespassing. So if you access private land for your favorite outdoor activities, you might want to join in the clean-up on a regular basis.

We own 10 acres around our home, and many anglers like to fish the brook and pond behind our house, accessing those waters over our lawn. Two years ago, Linda went out to ready the trail through the woods for the annual birding adventure that her first-graders enjoy here every spring and discovered our fire pit was full empty Bud Light cans.

I’d been disappointed that anglers were not appreciating the place, often leaving trash. One year, I found a paper bag full of someone’s discarded lunch items and left it there all spring, but no one fishing there picked it up.

So after Linda’s discovery, I posted the land around the house “Access by permission only.” I have given permission to everyone who asked, with a request that they not leave trash. And so far, no one has done that.

So I’m going to post the woodlot up the road with the same signs. I know this won’t stop drive-by slobs, but it will give me a chance to tell those who enjoy my woodlot that I’d appreciate it if they would help me keep it clean by picking up some trash when they are there.

And I’ll continue to do that for my neighbors, because I appreciate the access I enjoy to their land. I don’t take my regular walks now without carrying a plastic bag to pick up trash along the way.

I encourage you to do this, too. But look out for ants!

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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