I am a Long Term Volunteer with CalParks and my assignment is trail maintenance and invasive plant eradication. Over the last 15 months the number of visitors enjoying the outdoors of the parks has greatly increased. A some of the visitors may have not spent much, if any, time hiking in the outdoors/wilderness and seem to have little knowledge of outdoor/wilderness etiquette. They have trouble with closed areas, staying on designated trail, smoking, litter, and in some cases their own safety. The park I am assigned to does not have a manned gate so their is no one to greet or give them information. Does anyone have any ideas how to get some basic hiking knowledge out to them?
I’ve seen roadside and trail side kiosks used frequently with this sort of information. Some have handouts available for visitors to take with them. If you don’t have these at the park you are volunteering for, perhaps it would be worth considering installing them.
Tough one. Long term, a concerted effort by the outdoors “industry”, government, Sierra Club, influencers, schools and perhaps the DMV (or other group that comes into contact with just about everyone) is needed. In general people need to become more aware of caring for the planet. Public service announcements would be helpful. Short term, probably needs to be kept simple. “Leave no trace” always resonated well with me. Perhaps a simple sign post stating “Please - Leave No Trace” would help. Beyond that associating the “leave no trace” notion with a symbol (like the no smoking symbol - except for leave no trace) would work. Then this symbol could be posted in the same way trail markers/blazes are posted.
Advice via a story... While in a national park on a long hike around a lake we stopped to watch a moose slowly eat and wade across the lake. not more than 2 minutes after we hunkered down whispering and enjoying the moment, some schmuck launched his drone to video the whole thing. The moose picked up his head and walked with haste straight to the woods... People can be lame. I confronted the guy and he had zero idea at all about anything in the wilderness. He was from a big city and had never been to a national park in his life. We ended up talking for half an hour and he packed up his drone and apologized profusely. Littering? Those are just morons who should be banned from the outdoors, but most are just naïve to the rules.
As an ex-wilderness Ranger I have to offer a piece of advice: Get Your Head Right.
Come to peace. You chose this. You chose to support your trails. Great.
If you want to choose to use your time to fix all in humanity, you could choose to do that as well.
It's a bit harder.
Release attachment to outcomes. Just do what you do.
Signs and bulletin boards help to some extent, but what is more effective is contact with informed, polite park staff, especially when you catch them in the act....
Clueless visitors have always ben with us, and they won't go away any time soon, so it is an endless task.
I find that visual reminders work better than walls of text on a sign. Here's one example that I've seen many times in the Alps:
Another example that I couldn't find a photo of, is a cube cage made from wire mesh, perhaps 3' each side, that contains garbage picked up by volunteers in the previous season. That seems to really get peoples' attention: One discarded candy wrapper or water bottle may not seem like much, but a large cage full sure seems to make people think.