Know Before you go; if you don’t know, don’t go…

‘Tis the season…for inexperienced (in New Zealand conditions) and poorly-prepared trampers to ‘walk’ the Tongariro Alpine Crossing…and every year Police and volunteer rescue teams put themselves at risk to rescue these wallies

Last week, this brochure was released to get the message to national and international visitors to Tongariro National Park. That message is really quite simple:

Know before you go:

Know the weather AND ground conditions

Know what to do in alpine conditions

Know what to do in avalanche terrain

Know what to do when the plan goes wrong

If you don’t know: don’t go – or go with a guide…

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A lot of the information online and offered by staff in the hospitality line is well-intentioned but ill-informed. Many people, especially those off the mountain or not ‘mountain’ people, do not understand the hazards of the Crossing in winter, or during bad weather. Many think it is just a case of ‘giving it a go‘, of ‘going harder‘, or just willpowering themselves over the snow and ice. Others think that it is more importnat to promote ‘tourism’ at all costs…

“…the trampers were lucky to escape with their lives…”

“…not sticking together caused the group to inadvertently separate…”

“…All their clothing was wet…they didn’t have it in waterproof packing…”

“…they didn’t call for help until it was very dark and one tramper was unable to walk…”

We don’t say these things, we don’t make the Crossing sound dangerous to scare visitors off, to try to keep the place for ourselves, to discourage commercial operations in the Park.

We say this because we want visitors to come here, enjoy themselves and leave safely.

We say this because we don’t want our people putting their lives on the line for rescues that are unnecessary; being dragged from their beds or jobs at all hours because of good intentions and poor information…

Don’t become a statistic

Know before you go

If you don’t know, don’t go

…or go with a guide…

 

Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (drones) Mid-Air Collision Study

Last day of July, three and a half hours til August (at the time I started typing) and I realise I haven’t written anything all month…

DJI Phantom

Unmanned aircraft is a subject that I thought I had moved on from but this report popped up in my inbox this evening…only a couple of days after I spoke with a couple of clowns flying a large drone over the Chateau Golf Course in Whakapapa Village. They pleaded ignorance of both National Park and Civil Aviation Agency legislation relating to flying drones in or over the Park but really? You don’t buy and operate a big drone like that without knowing the law.

That law is quite simple:

It is illegal to land, take-off or hover an aircraft in, from or over Tongariro National Park. A drone (of any class or size) is regarded as an aircraft. Any exceptions must have prior formal written approval from the Department of Conservation.

The land-owner’s prior permission is required before a drone can be flown over private land; or the permission from the mandated controlling authority for public land e.g. the local council or, for the Park, the Department of Conservation.

 In addition, rescue helicopters can and do enter the Park at any time of day or night, from any direction. Even on a clear day, the setting sun can obscure vision to such an extent that a pilot may not see a drone in time to avoid it.

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CAA Rules also prohibit the operation of drones within 4km of an airfield, that is 4km from the closest boundary of an airfield. For Whakapapa Village, that 4km limit takes you to just above the bridge over the Whakapapanui Stream. It means that you can’t fly your drone:

at Discovery Lodge (which has its own heli-pad in any case) or

at the camp site at Mangahuia, further along SH47 towards National Park Village, or

over Mahuia Rapids just along 47 in the other direction or

on the Tawhai Falls or Mound Walk trails that come off SH48.

Those who say that a small drone wouldn’t do any significant damage to an manned aircraft should read the report that I received this evening. You can find the report, Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (drones) Mid-Air Collision Study, here.

It is sobering reading: even a small (think Toyworld) drone can cause considerable damage to a light aircraft or helicopter, particularly the windscreen and tail rotor. Any components ingested into the engine may also cause unneeded excitement for the pilot and passengers of that manned aircraft.

the bits that hurt

The bits that hurt…

In a way this report is quite gratifying as it supports the work that I did for the Air and Space Interoperability Council and subsequently NATO on the hazards of small unmanned aircraft sharing operational airspace with manned aircraft.

If you own a drone of any sort in New Zealand, you do need to read Part 101 and Part 102 of the Civil Aviation Agency Rules, and the note RPAS, UAV, UAS, Drones and Model Aircraft. You won’t, of course, because you think you have an ultimate right to do whatever you like in the Park…that’s alright…but don’t be surprised if guides or Rangers just snap your pic and send it directly to CAA for action…

You might think it’s great your drone will follow your phone as you rip down the slopes at Whakapapa or Turoa…on a ‘good’ day in winter, there may be a half dozen or more rescue helicopter flights on to the ski fields or around the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, often in restricted visibility: that’s hard enough without the pilot having to worry about some goon operating their drone illegally.

Similarly, around the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, no one wants to be subjected to mosquito-like totally annoying whine of your drone…nor should should pilots have to look out for them as they approach for a rescue – when you’re too dumb to hear the helo coming in and dump your drone…

What we really need are a few good prosecutions to drive this message home BEFORE we have an accident…

Aviation Related Concern

To report an aviation safety or security concern, that may include complaints, or allegations of suspected breaches of civil aviation legislation, call: 0508 4SAFETY (0508 472 338) available office hours (voicemail after hours), or email: isi@caa.govt.nz.

Pictures, video, rego numbers are useful information to back up your complaint and hopefully lead to a successful prosecution. Ignorance of the law is no excuse…

Carry a big stick…

TACAPP

Further on the safety message aspect of this post and the comments, a local crew has just released a new app that comprehensively covers the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the Mt Ngauruhoe side trail…yes, you have to pay for it – a whole $2.99 – but it is worth it as both a top reference to the walk and as the one stop shop of what you need to know before you set out…

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.greattrailsoftheworld.tac

The World According to Me...

…or to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt “Tread carefully and carry a big stick“…two concepts directly related to my summit of Mt Ngauruhoe yesterday…

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This is Stick. Stick is a little miffed that it missed out on going up Mt Tongariro last week, but that’s kinda what happens when you hide away in a dark corner of the garage. Stick is way more useful than lightweight aluminium walking poles which are too flimsy to brace your weight against. Stick is also really good as a counter-balance and a brace when descending scree slopes…

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Tuesday and yesterday offered the best weather windows for another go at Ngauruhoe; yesterday had the least wind and Tuesday was off the list when I remembered that I had to speak to a visiting Duke of Edinburgh group from Karamu School. The day opening with a beautifully clear sunset that boded well for the day’s adventure.

Mt Ngauruhoe…

View original post 1,607 more words

If I could…

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On the trail to Oturere Hut

…what would I say to any one venturing into Tongariro National Park for a day walk or an overnighter..? I had been thinking about writing something like this after my Brutal post yesterday but this comment on my Carry a Big Stick post from my last excursion up Mt Ngauruhoe pretty much made the decision for me (thanks, Rob!)…

I would start with the weather. I would say to only check the Metservice forecast for Tongariro National Park. There may be other sites and apps that may tell you want to want to hear but only Metservice has trained meteorologists in the analytical loop. The Metservice forecast for the park is only for five days: three in detail for Whakapapa Village at 1135m and Red Crater at 1868m; the last two days in outline.

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Snow in December

Updates are issued each day around 7-30AM and around midday: each update may be quite different from the forecast it replaces. Do not expect the actual weather to always conform to the letter of the forecast. In the end it is your decision to carry on: if you think the conditions are taking you outside your comfort zone (perhaps too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, too slippery i.e. icy, too cloudy, etc) stop and think about what you are doing and review your options…

The weather here is very changeable so sometimes even the five day forecast is subject the swings of extreme: unlike the South Island which has long mountain ranges that keep the weather pattern relatively stable, our weather can not only switch just like that but can also manifest itself as radically different micro-climates in close proximity to each other..a couple of years back, two inches of hail were dumped at Mangatepopo without even darkening the blue skies over Whakapapa Village…

Regardless of the forecast, be prepared for four season in one day: a good thermal layer and a good wind- and rain-proof layer, gloves and beanie but also sun hat, sunglasses and sunblock; good walking shoes or boots – not jandals or heels; enough water, at least 1.5 litres, for the day and enough food for the day: good snacky energy food…

So what if something happens…?

In New Zealand, cell phone coverage generally follows the highways : Tongariro National Park is sandwiched between four highways and enjoys reasonable but NOT PERFECT coverage – a lot may depend on the specific model of phone and your service provider – if you need assistance, for example, you are lost, injured or assisting someone else, dial 111 and ask for Police – in New Zealand, the Police are responsible for all off-road rescues. Even if it is an injury: if you are off the road, ask for the Police!!

Three safety questions

Regardless of whether you are going out for a day or overnight, there are three questions you need to ask yourself:

Does someone I trust know what my detailed plans are? Contrary to some myths, this does not have to be someone in New Zealand. It is better that it is someone you trust at home than some bloke you met the night before in the backpackers.

Does this person know when I will contact them after the walk to say I am OK? Ideally this would be no later than the night you finish the walk. If your trusted person is overseas, be very clear about whose time zone it is that you will contact them.

Does this person know who to call if I do not return? If they are in New Zealand, they should dial 111, ask for police and say that they have  a friend or family member in Tongariro National Park on the XXXX walk, that you did not contact them when expected and that they are unable to contact them. Information that it is good for your trusted person to have ready to pass onto the Police:

Your DOC booking number if you are booked into one of the huts or campsites. If you are just on a day walk, where are you staying that night?

Your car registration number. This allows Police to check cars parked around the Park and also to check to see if you may have left the Park and then been involved in an accident somewhere else.

Your cell number – written out not just as a number in an address book: for when the Police ask for the number.

Your Personal Locator Beacon ID number, if you have one. If you do not, especially if travelling on your own, a PLB can be rented for about $10 from various locations around the Park.

Any medical history you or anyone in your group may have that may affect your ability to complete the walk and/or that may be useful for a search party to know.

It is quite important that your trusted person does not fall into the trap of ‘Oh, I’ll just give it another couple of hours’ or ‘I’m sure they’re OK, I’ll call in the morning‘. If they do not hear from you when they expect to and cannot contact you they should make the call.

If your trusted person does not speak good English, it is a good idea for you or them to write down what they want to say in English so they can just read it out (www.translate.com is your friend)

If you are the trusted person for someone, don’t waste time playing amateur detective trying to find someone. Under New Zealand law, companies and agencies cannot release information on who may be booked with them or not. All you are doing is wasting time – call the Police and let them do this.

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New Zealand is a beautiful place and we all want everyone to come here to enjoy it but…

We don’t close things if they might be unsafe: we rely on visitors to make informed decisions against their own experience and equipment. If in doubt don’t…

Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook or hear in the backpackers about what is or is not doable…

Take responsibility for your safety and that of your friends and family…

Have a Plan B…and C and probably D…

There is no view worth a free helicopter ride…

Brutal

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My temporary office/shelter at Soda Springs, about 1200m ASL

A few weeks back, work was pretty slow, so i decided to go for a walk up to Red Crater to check the ground conditions: even though the rest of the country might have been enjoying Spring, Tongariro weather is always changeable  and even now, almost into December, the forecast promises gale force winds and snow to low levels…

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The original forecast for my day in the Park looked quite nice but turned for the worse overnight…I almost gave it a miss but decided to go up to see how many people also decided to ventured into the mess…I’m always interested to learn where our visitors get their information from and what decision process they apply (or perhaps not) when deciding to venture out into the Park when the weather is less than its best.

The first leg up to Soda Springs was quite pleasant, drizzly but not really cold and just a light wind. I made good time as they were only a very few people on the trail – a stark change from the ant farm of a decent weather day…a few hundred metres short of the Springs, there was a distinct temperature gradient and the light drizzle changed into a quite brutal sleet shower: not pleasant at all. It was clearly snowing further up and I didn’t see much point pressing on…

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A guided group preparing to head further up the trail – going with a guide in these conditions adds an extra layer of safety

A group of three that I had passed on my way up stopped for a chat. They had checked the forecast before departing but were unaware that the first morning update comes though about 7-30. The previous forecast had been for nicer weather and improving as the day progressed: the guy leading them had fixated on this improvement and was expecting this ti happen as they worked their way up the Crossing. One of the girls only had a light jacket and was only wearing tight-fitting track pants: it wasn’t hard to see the early signs of hypothermia…dragging feet, slurred speech, diminished motor control…. I suggested that perhaps they might to turn back and get her dried off and warmed up…

I walked back with them to make sure they made it back alright. The guy, Eric, was quite a good bloke and we chatted on that walk back: Chinese he had attended high School in Hamilton and had considered himself reasonably experienced in the New Zealand bush: many weekends he and his fellow boarders had been dispatched  on bush tramps and walks. He was quite annoyed that no one at the lodge they were staying at had warned them about the weather or told them to wait until the morning update before checking the weather.

As we descended towards Mangatepopo car park, and away from tat temperature gradient, the weather warmed up and Eric’s friend improved along the way. Misinformation about conditions and hazards in Tongariro National Park is common. Where information does exist it is more often of a tourism promotion ‘ happy happy joy joy’nature and less of the simple easy to understand bullet points that should be shaping visitor expectations from the time they first consider visiting New Zealand.

All’s well that ends well and Eric and his friends came in the next day to say thank you for the assist.That notwithstanding, there have been some gnarly rescues in this area of the Park, most of of which have been caused by the rescuees aspirations getting a head of their capabilities…

Come visit but be safe…

If we were having coffee

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how great it has been having Mum and Dad come to visit for the last week…we even got some halfway decent weather…

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Leaving on the Northern Explorer, heading south…

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Louie found a new walking buddy

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A quiet spot in the sun

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Can’t keep some people out of the garden

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Dad discovers the media centre remote…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how great it has been having people to cook for the last week. Breakfast and lunch are pretty much self-help here but our dinner menu was pretty on to it:

Day One: Roast Baby Armadillo on a potato, kumara, parsnip mash. This is quick and easy. I only made half the recipe but added the full cup of milk to the bread which made it a bit gooey. I fixed this with a half cup of almond coconut meal (left over from almond coconut milk) which a. worked to soak up the extra milk and b. added an interesting flavour and texture twist to the meat loaf.

Day Two: South African Curry with brown rice. This can be made with meat or not but I had 500 grams of mice left over from the baby armadillo and, due to my currently congested fridge space, this was a good way of consuming it.

Day Three: Fruit Salad Curry with brown rice.

Day FourChicken and Potato Chowder. My plan was to have this with homemade bread but I got a bit careless and put into too much water. The result was a bread with a heart so hard it burst out of the when I tipped up the breadmaker bowl.

Day Five: Beets and Goat Feta on Black Rice. This was the first time I’ve made this with raw beets. These worked as well as if not better than the precooked one I snagged form the supermarket last time by accident.I did go over on the olive oil and had to up the honey and balsamic to compensate…it all worke don the day though..

Day Six: Curry Kumara Hash Browns with Salmon and a neat salad. These hash browns are really nice but I’ve never been able to find a decent side to go with them. In the past I have relied on a dodgy rocket salad but I’m not really a big rocket person. Last night I tried a bit of an experimental salad and sauce that worked really – both of them…more to follow on that soon…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how impressed I was when the train arrived 15 minutes early on Friday…but then it was almost 15 minutes late this afternoon – life balances out but the lesson is to wait in the cafe with your coffee and the crispy fire until it actually pulls up…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m humbled to have gained a seat on the National Park Community Board. Elections aren’t until October but the position wasn’t contested so it’s done and dusted. I’ve probably just signed myself for even more work but I’ve got some catching up to do getting into this community. I’ve lived up here since 2004 but it’s only been since I started to work in the Park that I’ve started to get involved…yes, I do miss the Defence travel sometimes but it doesn’t outweigh coming home each night…

If we were having coffee, I’d be telling you how excited I am to be getting into some new ventures in the Park…

Share Your World – 2016 Week 32

Here is the basic Share Your World format:

  • Answer three random questions each week.

  • Respond to a fourth item (I will randomly chose from this list)

  • Answer the bonus question which is always the same  “What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?”  Because we all need to be reminded that there are many things in our lives to be grateful about.

 

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

Coconuts. They don’t grow here so it’s not like I can grow my own and they are still pretty pricey at the supermarket but with a guaranteed supply, I’d be making all my own coconut oil, flour, milk etc even more than I am now…of course, in a few months I’d be over it and want an endless supply of something else…

What is the worst thing you ate this last recently?

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Tough question as I eat pretty well, if I do say so myself…I’ve been working to perfect a good (great would be awesome but I’ll settle for good) dairy-free latte. Non-dairy milks won’t ‘pull’ the same way as real milk…this is due to to a lack of protein so adding a half- teaspoon or so of protein powder lets coconut or almond milk froth up nicely using a mechanical frother. Last week, during the trial phase, I made an error in assuming the frother would also serve as a mixer for the teaspoon of protein powder in the bottom of the cup. It didn’t and my coffee was spoiled by a sand-like grit (it was pea protein not dairy) in the dregs  – normally the best bit where the final swirls of coffee and coconut combine…

Are you are comfortable doing nothing? For long stretches of time?

Yes…years of practice…something called ‘hurry up and wait’…it’s easy to zen into a ‘park’ mode, still aware of what goes on but conserving effort and energy ’til whatever happens/arrives/departs/whatever…

List of Jobs You Think You Might Enjoy: Even if you aren’t thinking about a career change, it can be fun to think of other jobs you might enjoy.

Now that I’m back on the Mountain, I gaze longingly at the snow-covered slopes and wish I could ski or climb again…cold injuries are such a bitch and they never really go away…

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These are my favourites…Ruapehu’s too over=populated…

I’d like to have my own cafe…paleo-themed but not pedantically so…I drive past Ferguson’s Cafe in Whakapapa Village every day and the lost potential rubs me so badly…

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I’d love to fly but not for a living

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

Last week, I’m grateful I finally took the plunge and applied for the next Pre-Hospital Emergency Care course. I’ve been avoiding getting back into this game for a while but the more I get drawn into the Park and the District, old flames rekindle. I enjoyed the debate during the Outdoor First Aid course last year and much as I’ve tried to steer away, I think now why not..? So a lot of study to get my head back in this…

I’m also grateful that I took the plunge to run for the National Park Community Board. Again, as a result of being drawn more and more into the District, I’m looking for ways to engage and contribute. Earlier this year I joined the Village Business Association and the Community Board seems like a logical next step…

Next week…I’m looking forward to my parent’s coming to visit for a week…the first time they’ve bee up here in quite some time…been a few changes to this place…DSCF9706.JPG

Also looking forward to some good outcomes from a tactical planning meeting with my lawyers on Monday…one way or another, the battle with the bank hasn’t got long to run…how it will go I don’t know but the new evidence we uncovered in the last week or so looks promising…

 

If the Beatles lived here…

snow snow snow

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold rainy winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right

Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right
Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
It’s all right, it’s all right

And with the snow, come the Darwinists, people who are just too dumb to be allowed outside on their own…

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Finally…

severe 31 Jul 16

…with more to come…

…winter is here…

Woke up to snow at home this morning…mainly windblown but nice to see it making the effort…slushy snow on Raurimu Bridge and then increasingly realer snow into National Park Village and then down SH47/48 to Whakapapa…

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

Even though the plough and grit trucks are out, temperatuires are still below zero in most places…with the ski fields and ski field roads being closed, I’d really suggest people want to stay off the roads unless they really need to be somewhere…

Today’s post as been brought to you by the number 4 and the letters W and D…

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All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

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All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

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All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

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All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

Look Up | The Daily Post

This week is all about taking a moment to check out what’s going on above you. For this week’s challenge, take a moment to look up. Whether it’s the fan above your head at work, your bedroom ceiling, or the night sky, what do you see? Is it familiar? Or does it show you a new perspective on your surroundings?

Source: Look Up | The Daily Post

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Looking up

This dead tree towers over State Highway 4 as it snakes under the Makatote Viaduct between Horopito and National Park Village. I’ve driven this road hundreds of times and only noticed it when i was driving back from my physio appointment yesterday. I’m not sure if it’s the result of a lightning strike but it surely is a candidate for one now…

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Looking across

The viaduct has been undergoing some serious maintenance the last year or so and the plastic shrouds are to prevent sprays and dust contaminating the environment around the viaduct.

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Looking down!!!

Someone’s clearly had a party!! And dumped the rubbish at the lookout by the viaduct. Most of this is recyclable: bottles, cans, and pizza and beer cartons. That just goes to show how lazy some people are: there is no charge for dumping recycles at the transfer station. Some of the good lads from Downers were there tidying this mess up. A highlight of their day – not!

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One of the problems we have up here is campers who can’t get their heads around the fact that when the bin’s full, the bin’s full and that doesn’t mean they can just stack the rest of their rubbish beside it. A rubbish bin does not denote a dumping site and this is why all the rubbish bins have been removed from places in the Park like Whakapapa Village: put one out and half an hour later it’ll be buried under a pyramid of rubbish bags.

DSCF0252 These apples were dumped at the side of the lookout car park. Sure, they will eventually break down but that still doesn’t making this blatant dumping OK…

As you drive around the Park, and you see dumping like this, take some pics and report it…even better, if you see someone doing this, take their pic and report them…