News & Updates

Leaving No Trace on the Beach

Leave No Trace - April 28, 2016

Monterey, CA: We dream of frolicking along the oceans shore, amongst the pristine beaches our world has to offer. Ahhhh, what a wonderful visual that conjures in our minds eye. We would like to say that visual is what we always encounter when spending time on the coast. Reality check! It’s quite the opposite. In fact it is almost an anomaly to find a pristine beach! We know a few, but we’re not going to tell you (well maybe if you bribe us ;-)).

The most recent example of the hope for a pristine beach was in Seaside, CA. We drove down the beach access road, left our sandals in the car and gingerly walked barefoot across the asphalt until we were on the sandy shoreline. On our left we saw urban development making its way to the oceans edge, a common sight in California. To our right was wild undeveloped coastline as far as the eye could see. Thinking back to the iPhone map we remember seeing Fort Ord State Park go right up to the waters edge, which would explain the more pristine looking coast.  We had run down the developed coastline last time we were in town. So this time we chose the “path less traveled” and uncharacteristic to the rest of the saying by Robert Frost, it did not make all the difference! The beach was littered with shards of glass and pieces of trash. While the vistas were amazing, the beach itself did not inspire boundless movements, as we were unsure if we would find ourselves with a chunk of glass implanted aggressively into our plantar fasciitis. Life is for the intrepid, so we still went for our run. Although, next time we can assure you we’ll be wearing shoes.

We know your not leaving trash out there, plus we understand that lots of it gets washed up on shore. With that in mind, we bring you three ways you can practice Leave No Trace on your next beach outing.

1.          Prepare yourself! 

Do you get sunburned easily? Don’t forget your sun essentials: sunscreen, sunglasses and a super sweet wide straw hat. Depending on your style or lack thereof a ball cap will work as well. Show your support for Leave No Trace and get your hat from us. It can be hot out on the beach in the summer. Make sure to bring water and appropriate footwear. Not all beach sand is created equally. Some is more abrasive and can act like sandpaper to rub your feet red and raw in a hurry.

Pro tip: Ask the local stores when the beach is least crowded. Go then, unless you really like the smell of Coppertone sunscreen.

2.          Toes in the sand, give trash a hand! 

We love hanging out on the beach working on our tans while our toes get licked by tide. What we don’t like is doing this near trash. Be a good steward and do as your mother would ask you to do. Pick up after yourself. It’s easy to make sure everything that came in with you goes out with you. We like to stuff our trash in our backpacks, pockets and beach bags. If we are going to be out there for a long day we bring a small trash bag. It makes the whole job easier. Be aware of the wind. It can unexpectedly take your Cliff bar wrapper a few miles down the beach before you can count to 10. You got this!

3.          Your furry friend has wild instincts. 

Buddy is your best friend! You couldn’t imagine walking the beach without him or her. We understand and we also love our pets. Every so often when we are tempted to free our pets from the restraints of the leash where they are not supposed to be, but then we remind ourselves of the numerous times we have been chased down the beach by dogs let of leash by well meaning owners. Did we mind getting barked at, nipped in the ankles and almost tripped? Not really, it made us run faster and jump higher, which helped us get more out of our workouts. But, we are not so sure others would feel the same. Besides it’s important to remember that leash laws are commonly in place to protect a fragile ecosystem. Nesting birds can be seriously disturbed by domestic animals. Sensitive vegetation that is critical for healthy sand dunes can be damaged and it may become difficult for our pups to heed our call to stay and come back when the ocean breeze picks up. Also, did you hear the story about the dog eaten by the shark while off leash… neither did we. All we are asking is that you take the time to understand the consequences of your decisions. As well as recognize that one dog may not be a big deal, but we are dealing with cumulative impact from many visitors’ animals. Thanks for taking your furry friend outdoors. We know they love it!

Number 4: Did you feed that animal? 

“Ohhh, look at that cute seagull! Let’s feed it! Give me your sandwich. That seagull look soooo hungry! Poor thing. It must not have eaten for days. Here you go seagull… Ouch it bite me! I’m bleeding. Do seagulls have rabies!?”

Sound familiar? We want to tell you a personal story – this is Sam’s story. “Hey y’all, this is from way back when I was a little kid. I was down by the Chattahooche River in Roswell, Ga. We were walking at the park and I saw others feeding slices of bread to the geese. Even with all their ‘haw hawing’ they seemed friendly enough. I thought it would be a good idea to go down and pet the geese. I didn’t have any bread so that was my less than Leave No Trace way of interacting with wildlife. When my parents weren’t looking, I ran down to the geese and tried to pet one of them. You know what happened? The goose got upset and swatted me really hard with its wing. And it hurt! I remember crying and sobbing and from that point forward I was not interested in going near wild animals. As you might imagine I was particularly afraid of geese. Now, fast-forward a bunch of years: my wonderful fiancée, Jenna, and I are traveling the western US teaching outdoor ethics. A large part of what we teach and discuss is the importance of not feeding wildlife. Here are a few main points to consider the next time your tempted to feed an animal.

Human food is not meant for wildlife, in fact it can seriously harm them.

Feeding wildlife can easily habituate them to become attracted to humans in search of food. This causes more animal human interaction and the consequences can be two fold. The animal loses its natural ability to hunt and forage, and the animal can become deemed a nuisance by land managers, then may have to be removed from the area or put down.

So please, properly store your food when in the outdoors, as well as refrain from feeding the “oh so cute” animals. Did you hear about the woman who put her baby on the back of a deer and got kicked, then dropped her children all for a photo… So did we. It was near Wallowa Lake, Oregon. Please be careful and respect wildlife.

Thanks for being a great steward! Feeling inspired? Pick up trash that others have left behind or organize a local beach clean up. We promise your actions inspire others. So go ahead be a trend setter. Set the trend of stewardship.

Helping keep our wild spaces wild,

Jenna and Sam – Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Team West

Leave No Trace’s Jenna Hanger and Sam Ovett are part of the 2016 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Fjall Raven, ENO, Deuter, Thule, and SmartWool.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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