As more people take the COVID-19 vaccines, more activities that were shut down last year are beginning to reopen. That applied to Easter egg hunts this past weekend, made apparent by all the litter and trash that could be found in public parks Monday morning.

I usually take my two dogs to a city park every morning for some romping and exercise. I always carry an adequate supply of poop bags to pick up after my canines when they perform their nature calls. (Unfortunately, not everyone observes that courtesy as piles of dog manure are much too evident in every park and other public places.)

I don’t know if it’s a military saying or what, but I’ve always heard, “Leave the property you use the way you found it.”

Apparently, there’s a lot people who don’t follow that axiom. I was especially appalled this past Monday morning when I entered my favorite park to find that the sponsor of the previous day’s Easter egg hunt had done little to clean up their mess. The park was littered with pieces of boiled eggs, shells from plastic eggs, candy, paper, confetti, soiled baby diapers, fast food cartons, cups, bottles and other items of litter and debris.

I’m well aware that when you have hundreds of children together, there’s going to be a big mess. However, the mess is more parents’ fault, who both fail to teach their children the proper way to dispose of garbage and who, themselves, don’t take the time and effort to clean up their mess after the party’s over.

It’s not that great a task to make sure you leave public facilities as you find them. If you have the time to set up a facility for an outing, you have the time to do a cleanup afterwards.

Unfortunately, this lack of concern for others is not just found at holiday outings. Anybody who lives along a major street or highway must daily endure the littering from motorists who regularly toss fast food bags, cans, bottles, paper and all sorts of items from their car windows.

According to Keep American Beautiful, litter cleanup costs the country $11.5 billion per year. Imagine how much infrastructure that money could buy if it were not wasted in such a useless way.

With the advent of the COVID-19, we’re seeing another type of littering. While it’s encouraging to see people follow recommendations of medical experts and wear protective gear, it’s sad to see the discourteous ones toss their used face masks and protective gloves in shopping center parking lots. How much effort does it really take to walk to the nearest garbage can and deposit the items?

Another interesting source of littering in the U.S. is stuff that blows out on the highways from open pickup truck beds. Not only is such littering unsightly, it can also cause accidents when the highway is littered with pieces of timber or metal parts.

All states and localities have littering laws, but I wonder how much they’re really enforced. From after-holiday observances, it seems very little.

It is commendable that most communities regularly use their community service crews to pick up litter along the streets and highways. Perhaps instead of fining litterers for their misdeeds, the best punishment would be to put them on cleanup crews for a few weekends to get an idea what a mess people of their kind make.

Parks and public places provide people a chance to get exercise and enjoy spring weather, and are relatively safe during this pandemic. It’s not that difficult to keep these spaces clean and appealing.