Arches National Park ranger Lisa Simmons found a discarded mattress behind a pit toilet at the park. The mattress was one of the more unusual trash items that rangers have discovered at Arches. [Photo courtesy of the National Park Service]

Oddly, rangers at Arches National Park find lots of single shoes discarded along its trails.

“We find a little bit of everything – receipts, park maps, lots of cigarette butts,” Arches interpretive park ranger Michael Matthes said. “The strangest thing we’ve found was a large RV mattress.”

Saturday, Sept. 26, is National Public Lands Day, and Arches National Park is hosting its second “Clean the Scene” event – a trash cleanup project where volunteers don gloves and help pick up litter along the trails and trailheads. Volunteers fill large garbage bags and buckets that park service trucks collect later in the day.

Entrance to all federal fee areas, including national parks, is free on Saturday, which is also the nation’s single largest volunteer effort for public lands. Federal land management agencies plan various volunteer events that day to encourage community stewardship of public lands. Arches is holding its Clean the Scene event for its second consecutive year.

“This year, we’re focusing on the bike path in the front of the park along Highway 191,” an area typically with the most trash, Matthes said.

Plastic water bottles make up a lot of the trash found at the park – although there are fewer discarded plastic bottles than five years ago before the park stopped selling bottled water, Matthes said. To advocate sustainability, Arches now sells reusable water bottles, and provides two filtered water stations in the park.

Approximately 25 volunteers, “a good mix of adults and children, and some retirees,” helped with last year’s cleanup, Matthes said. The park service hopes to double the number of volunteers this year.

“We’re hoping we can get the community involved in good park stewardship that day,” he said.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring two liters of water, sun protection and wear sturdy shoes. The park will provide cleanup supplies. For their efforts, volunteers will receive certificates of achievement from the Public Lands Day office, and a free one-day pass to any national park in the nation – good for one year from the day of the cleanup.

Volunteers can pre-register for “Clean the Scene” by calling 435-719-2244, or by simply showing up on the day of the event.

While admission is free this Saturday, the normal entrance fee to Arches is $10 per vehicle, or $5 per cyclist or motorcyclist. On Oct. 1, however, that fee will increase to $25 per vehicle, $10 for cyclists, and $15 for motorcyclists.

Additionally, there are two different annual passes available. The National Park Service’s Southeast Utah Group, which includes Arches, Canyonlands, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges, is $25. In October, the annual pass increases to $50.

The best investment, according to Arches revenue and fee business manager Jodi Rupp, is an $80 Interagency Annual Pass that covers all federal fee areas. The majority of visitors to Utah’s southeastern parks also visit Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks, where entrance fees are $30, which makes the pass a great deal, Rupp said.

“That’s a ton of recreational opportunities for an entire year,” she said.

Additionally, U.S. citizens and permanent residents, 62 and older, can purchase lifetime passes that are valid at any national park in the country. Each pass costs $10. That one-time fee is not subject to fee increases at this time, Rupp said.

Arches needs volunteers to tidy up park on Sept. 26

When: Saturday, Sept. 26, cleanup runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Arches National Park; meet at the visitor center

Cost: Free

Information: 435-719-2244