tread lightly

Small towns with access to outdoor spaces often play host to visitors from all around the world. Whether tourists stay at hotels or eat at local restaurants, they are contributing to a community. When visiting the parks and trails just past the town, it’s important to bring that sense of community along for the ride.

Public land is something we all share. Whether you like to off-road, mountain bike, hike or camp, everyone has a duty to preserve parks and forests for the next trail user and for future generations. While we all have an individual stake in public land conservation, it is important to recognize the communities that share these spaces and work together to keep them open, healthy and beautiful. There are many ways to build and engage a community to protect these areas.

Here are a few tips to help create a bigger impact:

  • Talk to others who share the trails.
  • Join a recreation club.
  • Work with locals on stewardship projects.
  • Do your part by leaving an area better than you found it.
  • Use social media for more than just showing off your adventure — actively encourage others to help out.
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Enthusiast groups and recreation clubs are some of the biggest supporters of public land conservation and stewardship. By joining a club or just supporting hosted public land stewardship projects, you can work together to keep a shared area clean and open. Check out a group’s social media or website such as Treadlightly.org to find events in your local area.

This is also a great opportunity to branch out and work with other recreation enthusiast groups who share the trail systems you use. All recreationists have a stake in public land conservation. Maybe you aren’t an off-roader, but you can work with a local Jeep club to repair a shared trail in your community. And you might just discover a new outdoor recreation passion in the process of helping out once you discover some of the stunning and remote places off-road vehicles can safely get responsible riders.

When visiting a region, remember to always protect it and leave it better than you found it. You are in another community’s backyard. The local communities near popular public land destinations thrive from tourism and have a stake in keeping these places open. Help protect public land by engaging with local businesses and individuals to support responsible recreation and stewardship projects. 

During your travels, ask locals what issues they are seeing and try to proactively work to not further any damage in the area. By checking ahead of time with local land managers, you can find out if the area you want to visit is available and, if necessary, make a backup plan. Always remember the T.R.E.A.D. principles and be a good steward of your state’s public lands.

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Check out other stewardship articles HERE