24 July 2020

COVID side effect: awareness needed for responsible use of nature & trails

The experience of a lockdown led to an increase in people discovering the outdoors and looking for healthy recreation closer to home. The benefits of outdoor sports and getting out in nature in general for people’s wellbeing and (mental) health are nowadays obvious and well documented. As the same this, this positive development also created a few challenges for land managers and protected areas. Increased pressure on trail infrastructure, user groups that are not familiar with trail etiquette, littering and traffic congestion at recreational areas are some of the negative side effects of more people enjoying nature. 
Responsible use of trails and nature is key when it comes to preserving our ecosystems, minimize the impact of outdoor sports on the environment and prevent conflicts between different user groups. 

Many organisations have been promoting trail etiquette, principles, and frameworks of minimum impact practices for people visiting the outdoors. IMBA launched its Rules of the Trail already in 1988 to educate mountain bikers, the Seven Principles of Leave no Trace  are well established and widely known and more recently, EUROPARC Federation and the European Network of Outdoor Sports launched the 10 Principles for Outdoor Sports in Protected Areas.  Although it may be obvious, awareness of and compliance with these rules, codes or principles is not always widespread. With many new people discovering nature and outdoor activities, the momentum is there to increase communication efforts and endorse these rules and principles.  

EUROPARC Federations and ENOS made a few simple recommendations to raise awareness for the 10 Principles for Outdoor Sports in Protected Areas

  • Show the 10 Good Principles on your website. Visitors who prepare their trips will be better informed.
  • Disseminate information on social media. Use your network to spread the word!
  • Use your visitor centre to show and talk about the principles during the visits.
  • If you organise or participate in an outdoor sports event, make sure participants know the principles before the activity starts.
  • When working with young people, teach them and highlight the importance of respecting these principles. Five minutes of teaching can develop into many years of good practice.
  • Talk and spread the word to anyone interested, in any way. All dissemination is important

All recommendations can also be applied to IMBA’s Rules of the Trail and the Seven Principles of Leave no Trace. 

Useful resources 

10 Good Principles as leaflet
10 Good Principles as poster