Research & Education

Leave No Trace Training During Covid-19

Susy Alkaitis - May 11, 2020

This spring, the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services held a Leave No Trace Trainer Course with a twist: they were in masks and physically distant. Despite the unusual circumstances, the department was able to successfully put every one of their staff members through this 16-hour Leave No Trace course so that they are better equipped to communicate with park visitors. Leave No Trace spoke to Gillian Rossi, Park Ranger Supervisor about the importance of Leave No Trace training for her staff.

  • How many people participated?
    • 14 full-time employees and 6 summer seasonal employees
  • Why is it important to have your staff trained in Leave No Trace?
    • Our division wants to show that we are taking stewardship seriously and “practicing what we preach.” Having staff trained in Leave No Trace will help our team communicate with park visitors using uniform stewardship language, including the “why” behind all park ordinances. Leave No Trace puts a large emphasis on Authority of the Resource, which is one of the most important tools our park staff have to use.
  • How did the course go—what was different with everyone in masks?
    • Presenters had to be especially LOUD in order to counteract the “muffle” effect that occurs when wearing a mask. Fun moments occurred throughout the course as staff members (both brand new and “seasoned”) shared stories of off-the-wall interactions with park visitors over the years. Presenting this course to a Parks and Recreation team was a unique experience; so much institutional knowledge was paired with new techniques in communication and the science behind each Principle. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in the course learned something new.
  • How will being trained in Leave No Trace help Regional Parks, Trails & Open Space employees in their work specifically in your area—are there certain challenges the area faces?
    • The City of Colorado Springs is rapidly growing; our parks and open spaces are seeing more use every season. Having staff trained in Leave No Trace is vital in sparking positive behavior change in our park users. We have a group of park visitors deemed “ultra users” due to how frequently they visit the properties (some more than once a day!). We believe that Leave No Trace education techniques are the most effective way to turn our ultra users into “ultra stewards,” quickly reach out to infrequent or new park users with tailored stewardship language, and create a culture of environmental stewardship and responsible recreation that will become a trademark of the Olympic City. The main challenge our park system faces is over-crowding, which creates impacts such as user conflicts and vegetation damage (due to undesignated trail use/creation). Dog waste and pets off-leash are also major challenges in our Regional Parks, Trails & Open Spaces. We believe that the more our employees interact with visitors in a positive, memorable way, the more our visitors will begin to take responsibility for these natural areas and become stewards of the land rather than just users.

If you’re interested in running a Trainer Course, the Center has developed new guidelines to help Leave No Trace Master Educators offer Trainer Courses using available technology, despite the inability for many to offer in-person trainings for the foreseeable future. The Center will continue to update its members and followers on virtual trainings and online resources as they become available.

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