‘Depart no hint’ is the rule for open air conduct

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Scott Mackenthun
| Special about the St. Cloud Times

Minnesotans have flocked to nature during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Some have been regular participants who have always spent time outdoors; some are decayed participants rediscovering the tremendous benefits of outdoor recreation; and a third group are the new recruits – people who have absolutely no background in nature and who are seeing Minnesota’s great outdoors for the first time in many places.

Nature is a place where everyone should feel welcome. But it is also a place that deserves respect and has to observe some basic rules from its visitors. Based on the reports of bad behavior and bad etiquette observed locally and nationally in 2020 and 2021, it seems that some people need to be reminded of a few things when going outside and in the great outdoors. Just like in kindergarten, where you learned the golden rule of treating others how you would like to be treated, and have carried this idiomatic rule all your life in interpersonal relationships, there is one simple rule that governs your outward behavior should.

Leave no trace covers pretty much everything related to the human code of conduct outdoors.

Stay on designated paths. Unless you go to a wilderness area or wildlife sanctuary that encourages recreation, most places have hiking trails and the managers ask you to keep you on those trails. If you stray from the path, you will disturb overgrown locations and have an impact on flora and fauna. Stay on the trails. “Do not leave any traces.”

Do not devastate a park lot. Seems pretty obvious. Nobody has to see graffiti or your initials on a wooden bench or stickers on signs. Don’t chop down trees to build fortresses or make your own firewood. “Do not leave any traces.”

Keep fire only in designated locations. It’s amazing how many residual fires are found in places where they don’t belong. Unless you’re in a backcountry that specifically allows it, most places just want fire in rings of fire. With the heat and drought in Minnesota last summer, it’s amazing we didn’t have artificial fires. “Do not leave any traces.”

When you go to places of remarkable natural beauty, do your best to keep it that way. Snap or snap a photo, then move aside for others to do the same. Don’t claim the good viewing areas and don’t start stacking stones to make a name for yourself. Too many hiking trails, starting points, stream crossings and beaches are filled with piles of stones. When you start stacking piles of stones, to me, it is a sign that you are inexperienced in the outdoors. Leave the rocks alone; You play with microhabitats that are important for birds, fish, insects and small mammals.

Do you see wildlife nearby? Big. Admire it from afar. It seems like stupidity is rewarded these days when people make the news by taking selfies of bison and grizzly bears and then wondering why they are being impaled or accused. It’s not just the big, dangerous creatures that deserve some space. Respect nature and give it some space. “Do not leave any traces.”

If you’re loading gear at a BWCA portage, grabbing gear at a trailhead, or unbuckling the boat at the public launch, avoid people in the beginning. It is a courtesy to others to get out of your way while you prepare things. Once you have everything ready, get on your way or start.

After all, the subject is rubbish. How can people get into these beautiful natural areas and leave so much rubbish behind? It’s a very simple rule – when you wrap it up, you unpack it! All packaging, containers, bottles, cans, dog poop, rubbish … take it with you! Don’t expect someone to snap it up for you or for the parking department to set up a trash can. Take it home and dispose of it properly. “Do not leave any traces.”

For those who have left no mark and are good ambassadors for nature, keep up the good work. But in the future, outdoor people will have to start monitoring ourselves. Speak out loud when you see bad behavior. The enforcement of natural resources and parks is far too thin to respond to the tremendous outdoor migration that occurs during COVID times. There’s plenty of outdoor space for everyone, and we want everyone to feel welcome. We just need everyone who is respectful.

This is the opinion of outdoor columnist Scott Mackenthun. You can follow him on Instagram @scottmackenthun and on Twitter @ ScottyMack31.

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