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Leaving no trace: outdoor ethics for kids

Leaving no trace: outdoor ethics for kids

Before you visit a Maryland state park or forest, learn these simple tips to make your visit enjoyable and safe. Remember, all Maryland State Parks are trash free!
Here are a few examples of "Leave No Trace" ethics that you can use while visiting Maryland's public lands. Leave No Trace is a national program that promotes responsible outdoor recreation. Remember--you'll enjoy nature even more by caring for your special place:
Know Before You Go
Be prepared! Don't forget clothes to protect you from cold, heat or rain. Use maps to show you where you'll be going and so you won't get lost. Learn about the areas you visit. Read books and talk to people before you go. The more you know, the more fun you'll have.
Choose the Right Path
Use existing camp areas and walk on the main trail to protect nature. Keep natural areas looking natural. Steer clear of flowers or small trees. Once hurt, they may not grow back. Camp at least 100 big steps from roads, trails and water.
Trash Your Trash
Pack it in, pack it out. Put litter in trash bags and carry it home. Use bathrooms or outhouses when available. If you have to "go," act like a cat and bury poop in a small hole 4-8 inches deep and 100 big steps from water sources. Place your toilet paper in a plastic bag and put the bag in a garbage can back home. Keep water clean. Don't put soap, food, or poop in lakes or streams.
Leave What You Find
Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them so the next person can enjoy them. Good campsites are found, not made. Don't dig trenches or build tables and chairs in your campsite.
Be Careful With Fire
Use a gas-fueled camp stove for cooking. It's easier to cook on and clean up than a fire. It it's ok to build a campfire in the area you're visiting, use an existing fire ring to protect the ground from heat. Don't snap branches off live, dead or downed trees. Instead, collect loose sticks from the ground. Burn the wood all the way to white ash and be sure that the fire is completely out and cold before you leave.
Respect Wildlife
Watch wildlife from a distance and never approach, feed or follow them. Human food is unhealthy for all animals and feeding them starts bad habits. Protect wildlife and your food by storing your meals and trash tightly. Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
Be Kind To Other Visitors
Make sure the fun you have in the outdoors does not bother anyone else. Remember that other visitors are there to enjoy nature. Listen to nature. Avoid making loud noises or yelling. If you meet horses on the trail, step downhill, and speak softly until they pass.
Grown-Ups Remember To...
* Minimize activity to approximately 12 participants to reduce potential adverse impacts of larger groups. Make sure everyone in your group picks up litter and leaves the area cleaner that you found it.
* If possible, select a site for the activity that is under-visited and managed properly. Consult the Department of Natural Resources land manager to avoid sensitive areas or seasons that cannot sustain visitor use.
* Travel single file on trails to avoid widening the trail or making new ones. Do not "pioneer" new campsites in areas where use is restricted to designated sites. Concentrating use--except in very lightly used, pristine areas--is necessary to minimize vegetation loss and soil compaction and erosion.
* Dispose of human waste properly. Use the cathole method. Check with the Department of Natural Resources land manager on available facilities or any restrictions on human waste disposal. Some highly sensitive areas along waterways require that all human waste be packed out. Please be sure you have the equipment and skills necessary to comply with these protections to the environment.
* Report trail damage or other environmental impacts that may need corrective management attention to the responsible Department of Natural Resources land manager. Volunteer for trail stewardship management projects. Help keep your natural resources attractive, healthy and available for future use.

Credit goes to Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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