DELAWARE, Ohio (WCMH) — Every year, people flock to the grounds of Alum Creek State Park to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

But that picture-perfect image is being tarnished by trash and litter left behind by visitors.

“Last year, there was a 300 percent increase in visitation, a lot of that probably because of the COVID pandemic,” said Lieutenant Dawn Roberts with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “Unfortunately, that influx of visitation brought on with it an influx of trash and litter.”

Roberts said that last year, the park’s garbage bins were completely overrun with trash and it’s an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away.

“This is a natural area, it’s supposed to be nature, it’s not supposed to be man-made junk,” said Gary Rusk, a local fisherman.

Rusk is part of a fishing group who gets together every week at Alum Creek, but he says even they’re tired of having to pick up after other people.

“We don’t pick up because we don’t throw out, but we do pick up after other people if we happen to be where we can get it,” he said.

Which is why Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources has launched a new litter campaign, in partnership with the Department of Transportation, leaving signs and warnings across the park, informing the public that whatever they take in needs to be taken out as well.

“We’re just trying to encourage everyone to take the extra step, to make sure that if you’re going to have that picnic, make sure that whatever you bring in leaves with you,” Roberts said.

ODNR has at least three community litter pickups scheduled at each park this summer and it is increasing litter signage at properties to remind visitors on how to properly dispose of their trash.