Tucson, Arizona, has a population of 525,000 and rests in between beautiful mountain ranges and the city is known for their beautiful Saguaro cacti that stand out both in town and on the surrounding hills. Right on the edges of town is Saguaro National Park, which has two districts that are on the Western and Eastern ends of Tucson. Saguaro holds miles of trails through cacti stands located in the valley and trails up into the mountains for visitors to hike in. North of town is one of the most popular destinations for tourists and locals, the Santa Catalina Mountain Range. While the Santa Catalina Mountains are a large range with multiple peaks, the locals commonly call the whole area Mount Lemmon, for one of the peaks in the range.
The Santa Catalina Mountain Range has a lot to offer residents of Tucson, thanks to the elevation change from 2,700 feet at Sabino canyon to 9,157 feet above sea level at the top of Mount Lemmon. In the winter the bottom of the mountains stays warm, while in the summer the upper elevations provide respite from the heat in Tucson. There is an endless amount of recreational activities for Tucsonans to take advantage of. The rock climbing on the mountain is spectacular, the hiking is beautiful, the road and mountain biking is challenging, and the mountain even offers skiing in the desert. There are multiple car camping campgrounds along the road for people to stay the night if they are from out of town or if the need to escape city life for a night.
With all of these recreational activities happening in one area next to a large population center, the Leave No Trace Frontcountry principles can play a part in helping visitors at any outdoor area next to a city minimize their impacts. Frontcountry is defined as an outdoor area that is close to a road or urban area.
Frontcountry recreation is an important focus for Leave No Trace since 85% of all outdoor recreation takes place within easy access from the road. In the U.S. there are more people getting out to car camp and day hike than backpackers according to the Outdoor Industry Association. There is an expected increase in day hikers from 47 million people to 74 million people by 2050 and according to the U.S. Forest Service, day hikers are going to reach the one billion mark by 2020.
We had the joy of hiking and climbing with some old friends and new folks from the local gear store in Tucson, the Summit Hut. We explored the trails and climbed on the granite crags along the lower portion of the mountain. Mount Lemmon got us thinking about Leave No Trace and our Frontcountry program. Here is a list of the Seven Leave No Trace Frontcountry principles. The Frontcountry principles share commonalties with our standard seven principles, but are more applicable to non-backcountry areas.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
· Be prepared! Remember food and water, and clothes to protect you from cold, heat and rain.
· Use maps to plan where you’re going. Check them along the way so you’ll stay on course and won’t get lost.
· Remember to bring a leash for your pet and plastic bags to pick up your pet’s waste.
· Learn about the areas you plan to visit. Read books, check online and talk to people before you go. The more you know, the more fun you’ll have.
STICK TO TRAILS AND CAMP OVERNIGHT RIGHT
· Walk and ride on designated trails to protect trailside plants.
· Do not step on flowers or small trees. Once damaged, they may not grow back.
· Respect private property by staying on designated trails.
· Camp only on existing or designated campsites to avoid damaging vegetation.
· Good campsites are found, not made. Don’t dig trenches or build structures in your campsite.
TRASH YOUR TRASH AND PICK UP POOP
· Pack it in, Pack it out. Put litter–even crumbs, peels and cores–in garbage bags and carry it home.
· Use bathrooms or outhouses when available. If not available, bury human waste in a small hole 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet or 70 big steps from water.
· Use a plastic bag to pack out your pet’s poop to a garbage can.
· Keep water clean. Do not put soap, food, or human or pet waste in lakes or streams.
LEAVE IT AS YOU FIND IT
· Leave plants, rocks and historical items as you find them so others can enjoy them.
· Treat living plants with respect. Carving, hacking or peeling plants may kill them.
BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE
· Use a camp stove for cooking. Stoves are easier to cook on and create less impact than a fire.
· If you want to have a campfire, be sure it’s permitted and safe to build a fire in the area you’re visiting. Use only existing fire rings to protect the ground from heat. Keep your fire small.
· Remember, a campfire isn’t a garbage can. Pack out all trash and food.
· Firewood should be either bought from a local vendor or gathered on site if allowed. Don't bring firewood from home - it can harbor tree killing insects and diseases. Many states regulate the movement of untreated firewood.
· Before gathering any firewood, check local regulations.
· Burn all wood to ash and be sure the fire is completely out and cold before you leave.
KEEP WILDLIFE WILD
· Observe wildlife from a distance and never approach, feed or follow them.
· Human food is unhealthy for all wildlife and feeding them starts bad habits.
· Protect wildlife and your food by securely storing your meals and trash.
SHARE OUR TRAILS AND MANAGE YOUR PET
· Be considerate when passing others on the trail.
· Keep your pet under control to protect it, other visitors and wildlife.
· Listen to nature. Avoid making loud noises or yelling. You will see more wildlife if you are quiet.
· Be sure the fun you have outdoors does not bother anyone else. Remember, other visitors are there to enjoy the outdoors too.
Pat and TJ