News & Updates

Spotlight on Hot Spots—Is Leave No Trace Coming to Your Community?

Susy Alkaitis - July 16, 2019

As you walk down the shoreline of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, NY, you’re immediately struck by the sheer quantity of plastics, fruit, statues, coconuts and glass that have floated in from the bay. For many young children in Manhattan, this is one of the largest natural areas they have access to at over 9,000 acres—yet the park is in crisis. Last summer, one of the Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer teams spent a week on site and hundreds of hours as part of the Hot Spot program in order to learn about Jamaica Bay and consider possible solutions.

Among the many unique considerations Jamaica Bay faces is washed up remnants from puja, a Hindu ritual that involves giving offerings to the Goddess Ganga (of the water) in the form of fruits, flowers, statues and more. This is a centuries old practice that at one time would have involved the offering of entirely biodegradable materials. However, as technology has advanced, many of these statues are made from plastics that are washing up on shores such as Jamaica Bay.

As part of the Hot Spot week, Traveling Trainers Erin and Brice worked closely with the Sadhana Hindu Coalition, a local advocacy group who host weekly beach cleanups and work with local temples to shift people’s perspectives about these offerings—including research around a biodegradable statue or “murti”. Rohan Narine, the cofounder of Sadhana, said “what is important for us is that Hindus can still perform their worship and they wouldn’t have to be fearful of the term ‘fines’. We’re trying to avoid vocabulary like that with worshippers and instead we focus on safety and religious safety.”

Leave No Trace was able to play a key role in bringing together Sadhana, local stakeholders and land managers to further these conversations. Ultimately, one Hot Spot week might not restore Jamaica Bay, but by involving advocacy groups dedicated to working with their community towards a solution, we are hopeful that they will have further reaching effects.

Wondering what a Hot Spot is? Hot Spots identify areas suffering from severe recreational impacts that can thrive again with Leave No Trace solutions. Each location receives a unique, site-specific blend of programs aimed at healthy and sustainable recovery.

As we enter into another summer season full of Hot Spots, check out whether there’s a Traveling Trainer team coming to a park or protected area near you and how you can get involved. Your community has the power to take action and protect your parks with the help of Leave No Trace solutions.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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