News & Updates

Two New Parks Receive Gold Standard Designation

Susy Alkaitis - May 14, 2020

This spring, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics designated two more sites as Gold Standards in the United States. Castlewood Canyon State Park in Colorado and Buffalo National River in Arkansas became the latest in an elite group of 12 parks nationwide. Becoming a Gold Standard Site requires a strong commitment to promoting Leave No Trace skills and ethics as well as outdoor stewardship in order to preserve and protect our lands for years to come.

In order to be named a Gold Standard Site, a park must meet the following criteria:

• History of successfully implementing Leave No Trace Outdoor skills and ethics into management, programming, outreach and education efforts at the site.

• Staff formally trained in Leave No Trace.

• Leave No Trace signage throughout trailheads, visitor centers and campgrounds as well as Leave No Trace language and messaging included in pamphlets, maps and other distributed materials for visitors.

• Leave No Trace interpretative programs including ranger talks, campfire events and trail outings for visitors.

It’s an impressive accomplishment that requires dedicated leaders in the area. Leave No Trace spoke to a representative from Castlewood Canyon and Buffalo River to find out the impetus for striving to be a Gold Standard Site.

Beverly Finamore, Castlewood Canyon:

After arriving in Colorado in the fall of 2003, I found an article in the Parker Chronicle about volunteer training at Castlewood Canyon State Park.  I thought this would be a great way to learn about my surroundings.

Leave No Trace was introduced at the Friends of Colorado State Parks rendezvous in April 2018. The Principles seemed like a very easy way to convey to our guests that they needed to help take care of our natural resources for future generations, and with the help of the volunteers at Roxborough State Park, we were on our way.

When I started to lead this group, I found I was very fortunate to have quite a group of talented volunteers that shared my beliefs and bringing the Leave No Trace Principles to our park seemed like a great way to educate our visitors.  Soon the “Gold Standard” became a goal we all had for our Park.

Our days as volunteers in the Park certainly have changed lately. Our visitation has skyrocketed with the stay at home orders, and all parking lots are full, trash has become a real problem and (there are) lots of parents, dogs and kids. Since there are no public programs we certainly have an amazing group of volunteers who are making their presence known in our park. They hike, help visitors pick trails, pick-up trash, and monitor our trails.

For me it has been a very rewarding journey, bringing Leave No Trace to Castlewood Canyon State Park, and we will continue to build it’s presence each and every year.

Lauren Ray, Buffalo River:

On any sunny, warm weekend in the spring, certain areas of the park are jam-packed with people who want to play outside. It’s wonderful to see so many visitors enjoying this national treasure, and most people take great care to protect the park while they’re here. There are a few locations, however, that endure unintended impacts because large concentrations of visitors are not equipped with Leave No Trace knowledge.

Leave No Trace Arkansas Advocate Rob Stephens contacted our park staff a few years ago to offer ideas and support to implement Leave No Trace educational programs to help with the recreational impacts we were seeing. After completing a Leave No Trace Master Educator course in 2018, I better understood the science and research behind the Seven Principles and how small changes at an individual level could cumulatively make a great difference in the stewardship and preservation of our public lands. Our team has been hooked on spreading Leave No Trace awareness ever since.

One of our greatest obstacles at Buffalo National River is that many of the high-use trailheads, campgrounds, and river accesses do not have any cell service available. Through my interactions with park visitors, I’ve observed that a lot of people don’t research their trip as well as they should because they assume they will be able to do so when they arrive. That’s just not the case here. For a safe, enjoyable, and low-impact experience, it’s crucial to prepare before you leave home. Know what gear you need. Know the weather forecast and river conditions. Know local fire restrictions and park regulations. You will inherently leave a smaller recreational footprint if you #KnowBeforeYouGo.

As a park ranger, I spend a lot of time developing educational Leave No Trace content, from videos to songs to posters and more. When I’m interacting with park visitors, Leave No Trace tends to organically come up when discussing visitor safety and resource protection. The Seven Principles make concise talking points for those two-minute visitor contacts, but they can also be expanded upon in great detail for sixteen-hour Leave No Trace Trainer Courses. Leave No Trace is so ingrained in public land management that I can confidently say that it is part of the work we do at Buffalo National River every single day.


If you are interested in learning more about Gold Standard Sites and how your local area can receive the designation, check out our Gold Standard Site Toolkit. 

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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