If you’ve been out in the natural areas lately, you may have noticed that some of the display cases at the trail heads are getting a facelift. New plexiglass is being installed, and old, faded materials are being removed.
As we think about the materials we want to put in their place, we have to ask what we want to communicate to people using the trails in the natural areas. The Outreach Committee, which is responsible for SMGA’s messaging to the community, came up with several guidelines that deserve emphasis:
- Observe rules of etiquette on the trail. This means that cyclists should yield to hikers, hikers should stay on the trails to lessen erosion and damage to plants, dog owners should keep their pets leashed, pet owners should clean up after their pets, trail users should dispose of their trash properly and leave nothing behind, and everyone should observe CDC guidelines in regard to COVID-19.
- Don’t use the trails when they’re wet. Doing so can cause erosion and other damage.
- Pay attention! For their safety, hikers should watch not only for cyclists, but also for snakes, rocks, and thorny plants on or near the trail.
- Dog owners should clean up after their pets. Though this message is included in the rules of etiquette, the committee believes this is a point that requires special emphasis. In addition to being unsightly and smelly, dog waste contains bacteria and parasites that can harm humans and wildlife. It is definitely not the same as the waste from deer and other native species.
- Support the work of SMGA. This poster, which shows volunteers creating and maintaining trails, planting and taking care of trees, and spreading seeds in natural areas, emphasizes the fact that SMGA is responsible for all of this work. Although the labor is offered at no charge, the organization requires financial support to purchase tools and building supplies, maintain the truck and other equipment, and, on occasion, buy native seed.
In all cases, the committee attempted to keep the messaging direct but friendly. Other posters, such as one on using trail markers, are planned for the near future.
Written by Susan Hanson, board member and chair of the Outreach Committee.