Runyon Canyon Park, a unique wilderness area in the heart of Hollywood, is currently under threat. Expensive studies have been commissioned, catastrophic problems identified, and Strategic Plans (many of them wildly expensive) formulated. The standard narrative promulgated by those with political and financial interests: Runyon Canyon is being “loved to death.” It’s crumbling from too much impact and not enough care. The doomsayers claim the Park is over-run with visitors, litter and dog poo, and if heroic (and costly) measures aren’t taken soon we’ll all lose our natural wonderland.
Having hiked Runyon Canyon thrice weekly for more than 25 years — that would be more than 1,000 visits — and having written several novels and short-story collections, we’re finely attuned to the presence of fiction in public discourse. And having taken a personal interest in keeping the hiking trails free of insults to Nature, we’re also finely attuned to the truth. Which is this: Runyon Canyon, especially near the West Trail (the one that loops from Vista to Fuller via Inspiration Point near the top), is cleaner than ever.
How do we know? Because for the past several years we’ve made it a daily practice to pick up any litter or dog poo left behind by unmindful others. Our methodology is simple and cheap: We put a small plastic baggie on one hand and carry a slightly larger one in the other; when we see a stray granola wrapper or bottle cap or fragrant animal dropping, we pick it up.
Some call it volunteerism. Some call it being the change you wish to see. We call it loving the Canyon. Acting like a real friend.
If you search the Internet, you’ll be able to confirm that “selfies” aren’t an MK specialty. But in the interest of providing actual data — as opposed to personal stories — we asked our favorite Runyon Canyon yoga teacher, Daniel “Dharma Gypsies” Overberger, to snap a photo of the morning’s litter and dog poo haul over a two month period. Keen observers will note that most tours around Runyon produce less than a small shopping bag’s worth of detritus.
Thanks to a small band of individual volunteers associated with no charitable organization, Runyon Canyon is pretty clean — and getting cleaner every week. Litter works on the gravitational principle: if there’s a small pile of it somewhere inappropriate, folks will continue to throw their litter on the growing pile. If there’s no “starter kit,” they tend to find a better place to throw their waste, like one of the many trash bins along the trails. So picking up someone’s carelessly discarded plastic bottle or freshly deposited dog poo, instead of fuming over how inconsiderate they are, is a terrific way to improve the present and the future.
For the Canyon. For yourself.