Leave No Trace: 7 ways to minimize your impact when visiting parks
Our parks and protected areas provide stunning scenery, a home for wildlife, and an oasis for communities. And while many of us may flock there before the cold weather hits, it’s important to know how to minimize your impact on the environment – and why.
Human activity is a major cause of environmental degradation and related effects to wildlife.
We’ve seen it when photographers cause stress to animals by baiting them into appearing outside their normal habitat or waking hours. The results of human activity are also seen in the decline of species, including the threatened Algonquin wolf and potentially endangered Eastern cougar.
It’s crucial we make meaningful steps to minimizing our impact on nature when visiting parks, lakes, rivers, and other wild spaces.
The Leave No Trace Canada outlines 7 principles for lessening your impact while enjoying the outdoors.
Plan ahead and prepare
A two-hour leisurely hike will require far different planning and preparation than a seven-day canoeing and camping trip.
No matter the size or scale of your adventure, it’s important to know:
- who’s coming and what their skill and ability levels are,
- any necessary information or research about the area,
- what clothing and footwear is appropriate,
- how many snacks or meals you must bring, and
- anything else that will help you or your group be as prepared as possible.
Travel on trails and camp on durable surfaces
Outdoor adventures take us many places, but those shouldn’t involve trampling on vulnerable vegetation or into dangerous areas. Keeping to existing and official trails is key to minimizing your impact on our natural spaces.
The same goes for camping on durable surfaces. Based on your research about the area, you should know where the designated campsites are located. If this isn’t easily accessible beforehand, you can find bedrock, sandy areas, or spots with little no vegetation remaining as a result of heavy foot traffic off the trail and set up camp there. Try to keep your distance from the water’s edge as this allows wildlife to pass by safely.
Dispose of waste properly
What we leave behind in nature can take a toll on each other, the environment, and wildlife.
We’ve explained how to bury, burn, or package human waste but for other types of garbage, follow the “pack it in, pack it out” motto.
Plan your snacks and meals in advance and pack them in reusable containers you bring into nature but take home at the end of your adventure. If the trip is a few days or longer, consider bringing trash bags to haul to a site with garbage bins where they can be disposed of properly.
Leave what you find
Each of us has fond memories of hiking through parks or walking alongside the shoreline and gazing upon the wonders of nature.
Our community members should get to experience that moment of amazement as well, for generations to come.
To help them experience the wild, leave rocks, plants, artifacts, and other objects you find. Not only does this help other visitors and adventurers, but it preserves our natural environment as well.
Minimize campfire impacts
Ask yourself if you really need a campfire. Use a firebox or gas stove to warm your s’mores at night. These methods can help prevent fire hazards, which is especially important if you’re travelling with young children or pets.
Alternatives to traditional campfires can also help minimize negative impacts on the surrounding environments from people trampling the grounds looking for firewood, tearing branches, and disturbing wildlife habitat.
Nature is home to many types of wildlife, from small insects to large bears. Research what types of wildlife have been spotted so you know what to expect. It’s important not to rearrange the natural area to get a better look at wildlife or cause too much noise as animals may become stressed or even flee.
Give wildlife lots of space and observe them from afar for a safe experience for yourself, the animal, and the environment.
Be considerate of other visitors
People spend time in nature for many different reasons. Whether it’s for their daily run, monthly camping trip, or simply to unwind, it’s important to be considerate of others when out in our wild spaces. Things like unruly pets, blaring music, or zigzagging around a trail can make it difficult for others to have a positive experience in nature.
We want to minimize our impact on the environment, wildlife, and on each other. This way, everyone gets to enjoy nature.
Do you want to give Thanks to Nature? Join us Sunday, October 10, in four parks across Ottawa Valley as we give thanks for all nature does for us. Learn more at thankstonature.ca.