When the U.S. Park Service people talk trash, the first thing they mention is the chicken bones: piles and piles of them. So many chicken bones were left on the Mall following Saturday's Fourth of July festivities that one official joked that if you put the discarded bones end to end, the trail would lead well over the horizon.
Then there was the mud, caused by intermittent showers and an estimated 525,000 pairs of feet that helped trample the potporri of socks, shoes blankets, makeshift plastic ponchos and paper into the muck.
When America's birthday party was over Saturday evening, the dawn's early light Sunday revealed a conglomerate of picnic litter and debris on the Washington Monument grounds that Park Servcie officials say may cost as much as $50,000 to remove.
But yesterday, there were few major complaints from officials. There were, for example, fewer bottles and bits of broken glass compared with last year, when the Independence Day cleanup bill was $41,400. Fewer bottles and less broken glass -- apparently a benefit of a publicity campaign probibiting glass containers on the Mall -- means a quicker cleanup. By noon yesterday, most of the debris had been removed and work crews had begun reseeding areas stripped of grass.
"You got to give the crowd high marks," said George Berklacy, director of public affairs for the Park Service. "We had 50 sites [fenced-in enclosures into which people were asked to toss their trash] and they were filled. Some of the trash cans were overflowing. This was a stand-up crowd and they weren't going to leave their places for anything. You can forgive them for the chicken bones."
Bill Ruback, superintendent of downtown parks for the Park Service, had about 100 members of his ground crews working the rakes, driving the Jeeps with plows affixed, moving the trash into piles and maneuvering the big vacuum truck that sucks up the trash and shoots it into other trucks that take it to the city's incinerator for burning at $8 a ton.