Every month in The Resource, the Center's online news mailing, we share a difficult Leave No Trace ethical and skills based situation from a Leave No Trace Member for our team to respond to. Below is the February member's situation and our response.
The Situation: While biking on the Leigh Canal Towpath near Hellertown, I ran into a large group of people with coolers and beer cans lingering in the middle of the path. They were using a rope swing to dive into the river. They moved aside, but as I passed them I saw cups and beer cans strewn across the towpath. I kept biking, but should I have approached them despite the drunkenness of several of the people? - Sarah, PA
Here’s what our Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Teams said:
It's important to use good judgement and always consider your own safety. If a situation is unsafe or you feel uncomfortable approaching someone or a group, pass and/or notify the appropriate authority(s) if necessary. We always encourage people to create their own personal ethic and recognize their comfort zone when it comes to Leave No Trace. If the situation is safe and you feel comfortable (finding someone in the group who looks friendly and sober) here are 4 steps that we have found are most effective for having a positive interaction while educating and changing behavior:
1. Make a connection to the shared experience (Hi there, it's a beautiful day to be enjoying the sunshine and cool water, where are you all from?)
2. Give an objective statement of situation (Thanks for making room for me. I see that there's beer cans all over the trail.)
3. Explain impacts or implications of action(s) (I'm glad you all are enjoying the trail and the river, it's a beautiful place. It's easier for myself and others to enjoy the beauty of the trail when its clean and free of trash.)
4. Provide an alternative action (include personal technique or experience.) (I always have everyone throw their empty cans back into the cooler, that way I don't have to worry about cleaning up afterward.)
In general, engaging in friendly conversation, making connections, and giving alternatives leads to positive interactions and a more likely change in behavior.
Have a situation of your own you'd like the Leave No Trace Team to answer? Email Elana@LNT.org