In 2020, Zion National Park saw an uptick in graffiti in the park. From spray paint on rocks to carvings to mud handprints, these instances left an irreversible mark on the park.
In some cases, the graffiti can be removed. But even then, it comes at a high cost, with park staff spending hours of time and hundreds of dollars worth of resources. While the graffiti is there, it prevents other visitors from enjoying the natural beauty that Zion is known for. And, even after it’s been removed, graffiti of all kinds will harm plant and animal life around it.
Graffiti wasn’t the only damage on the rise in recent years. As the number of visitors to national parks across the nation, including Zion, increased, so too did the amount of litter left behind, damage to plant life caused by visitors leaving marked trails, and more.
If you’re planning a visit to The Dwellings, it’s important to do your part to protect it. Keep reading to learn how to practice the principles of “Leave No Trace” during your next visit.
What is “Leave No Trace?”
The idea of “Leave No Trace” is over a half-century old, though it’s only been widely taught to national park visitors for the last few decades. Created by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service, the 7 principles of Leave No Trace are designed to educate visitors to any outdoor destinations about the importance of protecting our natural resources, and on how to enjoy them safely.
Whether you’re planning to visit a national park for a simple picnic or a multi-day backpacking adventure, the same 7 principles apply. Let’s take a look at the 7 principles, and what you need to do to practice them.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
The first principle of Leave No Trace is to plan ahead and prepare for your trip before you ever leave home. This involves a variety of types of planning. It means researching and choosing hiking trails ahead of time so that you can educate yourself on things like the amount of water you’ll need, as well as physically prepare. Even a small-scale rescue operation can cause extensive damage to the park, and cost valuable resources.
Another element of planning ahead is preparing to pack out any trash you bring in. This includes packing out any leftover food scraps.
Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
Imagine that you are hiking on a trail in the woods and looking for a spot to take a break to snap a few photos or enjoy a quick snack. You spot a clearing through the trees and decide to step off the trail to get to it.
This action may seem harmless enough. But when you consider hundreds or thousands of visitors doing the same, the potential damage to plant and animal life becomes clear. Whether you’re hiking or pitching a tent, always do so on marked, designated trails.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Littering is another common problem national parks across the country are facing. Plastic bags get twisted up in trees, straws and other waste wash down waterways, and animals feast on food scraps and garbage. In addition to threatening their health initially, this can also lead to dependence, causing them to stop hunting for their natural food.
From picnic lunches and grill-outs to quick trail snacks, always plan ahead to dispose of your waste properly. Sometimes this will mean placing it in a garbage can or recycling bin. Other times, it may mean putting it in your backpack and taking it out of the park in order to dispose of it properly.
Leave What You Find
Much like wandering a few steps off a trail, picking a flower or bringing home a small, unique rock may seem harmless. But as the scale increases, so too does the damage.
Never remove any items from any park. If you want a souvenir, bring your camera to capture a few shots, or head to the gift shop located at most visitors’ centers to pick up postcards, t-shirts, and more.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
This is one principle that may not apply to every visitor. But if you plan to camp during your visit to a national park, it’s important to practice fire safety. This includes building your fire in a designated ring or properly building your own if that’s permitted where you are camping.
Always check with park rangers ahead of time to find out if there are any burn bans in place at the time you plan to light your fire. Collect only fallen wood and branches instead of cutting them off of trees. If you’re going to buy firewood, do so locally rather than bringing it from home to avoid spreading pests.
The graffiti in Zion wasn’t the only national park news to hit the web in 2020. In Yellowstone, close encounters with wildlife were also the subject of many news stories in the past year.
Respecting wildlife means several things. To start, never approach or attempt to touch or pet wildlife of any kind. While rock squirrels can sometimes approach tourists in Zion, mainly because some have become accustomed to being hand-fed, they can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans with a bite.
When driving through a park, always follow speed limits, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. When you spot deer, bears, or any other wildlife, remain quiet and stay out of their way to avoid startling them.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Wildlife isn’t the only thing you should respect during your visit to a national park. It’s also important to be considerate of other visitors. This means talking in quiet tones on trails, never blasting music, and moving to the side on trails to make room for other hikers. If you’re visiting the park with a group, consider breaking your group into smaller units to hike trails to avoid creating crowds and bottlenecks.
Practicing Leave No Trace on Your Next Visit to Zion National Park
Whether you’ve already booked your next stay at The Dwellings or not, now is a great time to learn the 7 principles of Leave No Trace.
Another great way to do your part to protect our natural resources is to choose more sustainable lodging during your next outdoor adventure. Our tiny home vacation rentals are a unique take on smaller-footprint living. Book your next stay today to see for yourself!