Leave No Trace in Maryland State Parks
If there is one thing that the global pandemic has shown us, it is the value of fresh air and open space. Visitors to Maryland State Parks cashed in on that value in record-breaking numbers in 2020. At the same time many businesses, attractions, and sporting events were restricted or shut down, State parks in Maryland saw a 45% increase in visitation during the pandemic, and that trend continued through 2021.
While it is a wonderful phenomenon that many more people have discovered the great opportunities that our 75 beautiful State Parks have to offer -- many for the very first time -- this trend has brought with it some significant challenges. The sheer number of visitors, compounded with a relative lack of experience in outdoor, resource-based recreation, has led to significant increases in litter, trail damage, parking issues, user conflicts, and other resource impacts. Although the adage “loved to death” might seem cliche, it truly applies to some of our more heavily impacted natural areas.
However, land managers and park professionals are not panicking -- nor should our visitors. If we all work together, we can prevent resource degradation. The men and women of the Maryland Park Service realize that the vast majority of our visitors love and care for their parks, and would not intentionally do anything to harm them. And since a significant number of novice outdoor enthusiasts could benefit from a better understanding of their impacts on the environment, we bring out our most effective tool in the chest -- education.
Once people better understand how their actions can affect the environment, they will know how to better care for the parks and open space they have come to love. Park Rangers across Maryland are therefore ramping up efforts to help teach visitors to Leave No Trace. Through a longstanding partnership with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics Inc., located in Boulder, Colorado, the Maryland Park Service is making efforts to increase visitor understanding of several simple principles that will help them make responsible decisions to better minimize their impact, while maximizing their experience.
As more and more people discover the benefits of outdoor activity and the great opportunities that visiting parks and open space can bring, it is important that everyone does their part to help protect these wonderful resources. These outdoor ethics will help people make the best decisions to minimize their impact and make sure these beautiful places remain safe and protected for generations to come. Please do your part in Maryland State Parks and always strive to leave no trace.
580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis MD 21401
Call toll-free in *Maryland* at 1-877-620-8DNR (8367)
Out of State: 410-260-8DNR (8367)