Few things are as welcoming as a park. We often think of them as nature’s playgrounds. We should think of them more as nature’s sanctuaries, a place where you’ll find wildlife, hike well-maintained trails and enjoy some of the most scenic places an area has to offer. Many visitors enjoy spending time in our country’s national, state and local parks to get away from the stress of daily life. It may be tempting to take home a souvenir or otherwise leave a mark, but doing so can have major implications on the parks and back home.
These are five reasons to leave nature alone in the parks.
1. Disturbing the Peace
A walk in the park is extremely relaxing and peaceful and offers numerous health benefits. While it’s great to take the time to stop and smell the roses, it’s not a good idea to stop and pick them! Every park has a unique and intricate ecosystem. Taking flowers or native plants changes the ecosystem of the park and prevents them from generating new seeds for future plants. You may think an acorn lying on the ground would be a good memento of your trip. If everyone who visited the park took an acorn, it would deprive the park’s animals of food and keep those acorns from becoming new trees.
2. Robbing the Wildlife
The berries are ripe for the picking, right? When you pick berries in a park, you’re taking food out of the mouths of wildlife. They don’t have the option of going to the store to get something else.
3. Changing the Environment
It’s also essential visitors protect the overall landscape of the park. Let’s imagine that someone built a home from stones found on the bank of a local river. People might marvel at its beauty. But a closer look at the river would show an eroding riverbank — and a house about to fall in. The same goes when you take something from a park. It may seem like a small stone, but if the millions of visitors each took a stone home, it would vastly change the terrain.
4. Unwelcome Hitchhikers
You do your best to keep bugs out of your RV and campsite. So why bring a piece of firewood inside? That’s how invasive bark beetles and other pests such as the brown marmorated stink bug made their ways into our yards and home. Bringing home just a few of these damaging pests could easily infect the trees in your yard as well as thousands of trees in your neighborhood and city. This is why many parks don’t allow firewood to be brought into their campgrounds, or restrict purchases to a few local providers.
5. Doing More Harm Than Good
There have been many recent stories about people with good intentions trying to help newborn or abandoned animals in the forest. It’s not because touching a bird or other animal will impart a human scent and cause the animal’s parents to shun their offspring. That’s a myth. But approaching young wildlife still can be dangerous for the young animal — or even you. The mother is usually close by and extremely protective. A mother moose will protect her newborn by charging at the intruder. Deer oftentimes hide their newborns in high grass during the day to forage enough food for both them and their offspring. If you see an animal that you think needs help, the best thing to do is to take note of its location and let a park ranger know. Safe wildlife watching is essential for the safety of everyone within the park.
Visiting a park is a great way to get out and explore nature. As long as we remember not to disturb the natural surroundings, the parks will be around for future generations to enjoy.
By: Olivia Macdonald
Olivia Macdonald loves the outdoors, especially when she’s in motion in it — whether hiking trails, running 5Ks, skiing or cycling on a mountain bike or road bike
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