Hoping to gain the public’s cooperation, Caltrans hosted a press conference at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 29, at the base of Highway 330 leading to the San Bernardino Mountains. The theme, “Pack it in, pack it out — help us keep the mountains clean,” aimed to educate snow recreation users about their responsibility to remove their garbage, or dispose appropriately in trash cans, when using public recreation areas and privately owned facilities open to the public such as ski parks.

Terri Kasinga, Caltrans District 8 public information officer, emceed the press conference and introduced presenters from the U.S. Forest Service, California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Forest Service PIO John Miller addressed the scope of the problem by noting that 20 to 24 million people live within two hours’ drive of local mountains and the trash and traffic problems are growing each year. “This year has been particularly bad,” said Miller. “Don’t assume open land is public. Often it’s not. Public areas are marked. Respect private property and park legally.”

Speakers also stressed that privately owned land, often with occupied homes, abuts mountain roads, and that littering and trespassing on private property are punishable by significant fines — $200 for trespassing and up to $1,000 for littering. “We’re obligated to issue these citations if we’re called [by private land owners],” said Capt. Don Mahoney, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. “We get to be the bad guys. There’s not a lot of public land on the sides of hills [leading to public recreation areas.]”

Although the conference was staged at the base of a much-used highway to San Bernardino County snow play areas, Kasinga also mentioned Idyllwild and parts of Los Angeles mountains as needing the same levels of snow tourist respect for private property and for the proper disposing of trash. “Getting community members involved and being part of the solution [to the trash issue] is a key piece,” said Kasinga.