Last year's removal of all trash cans in the C&O Canal National Historic Park seems to indicate that people, with all their attendant mess, are not welcome.

I spoke to the park's assistant superintendent, Kevin Brandt, about this new policy. He defended the change, saying it would reduce the amount of litter in the park because visitors would take their trash home and recycle it. He also said removing the cans would cut down on such problems as bee stings caused when the insects gather around open or overfilled trash cans and animal bites caused when animals forage through trash and people get too close.

I have a better solution: Hire enough staff to empty the cans when they are full and replace lids when they fall off. Anyone who would litter, particularly in this beautiful park, obviously has no respect for nature or for other visitors. The presence or absence of trash cans is unlikely to give such a person a social conscience.

This new policy simply punishes those who respect the park and care enough not to litter by forcing them to take garbage -- including pet waste -- home with them in their cars.

Great Falls is hardly Montana. The C&O Canal National Historic Park is not so remote that it would be impractical to have trash cans emptied regularly. Unfortunately, now I either can choose to eat or drink nothing when I go to the C&O Canal, or I can carry garbage around all day.

The park collects entrance fees, which I assume go toward maintenance. Providing and emptying trash cans surely is basic maintenance. Let's put common sense -- and trash cans -- back in C&O Canal National Historic Park.

-- Theodore E. Loeffler