How do we encourage people to stay on trail, follow trail etiquette, clean up after dogs and not litter?
All of us want to see more and more people outdoors using our great public assets. But we want them to do it responsibly. Suggestions?
I'd say education. As people continue to recreate outdoors, over time they learn more about how to do so responsibly and adjust their behavior accordingly. Many people, myself included, make mistakes when new at an activity and hiking/backpacking is no different. However, by learning more about how these actions impact the natural world, I realized I was making mistakes and I adjusted my behavior. By exposing people to this information earlier on one could hopefully shorten the learning curve, and reduce damaging behavior. Really, I think it's important to meet people where they are at, and work with, not against, them.
Normally I would agree that education is the answer, and I expect for most people that it all that is needed. Unfortunately, there is a segment out there (and it appears to be rather large) where it just doesn't take. As an example, before through hiking the AT, you have to obtain a permit and agree to LNT and a few other things. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to backpack in the Great Smokies and part of our trail was on the AT where we had reservation two night in the trail huts. One hut had a composting outhouse which was really nice, but the other just had a sign that pointed to a meadow. We went out to the meadow and it was covered in toilet paper and excrement. It was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen. We went and found our own place and barried and packed out. Most of the backpackers we saw on the AT had shovels hanging from their packs and all but a very few were still nice and shiny clean. The Great Smokies is 3-4 weeks up the trail from the start in Georgia. Those plastic shovels, no matter how well you clean them after use, should be scratched and dirty by then. Unfortunately, there are people out there who just don't care and or don't think, at least not about others or the environment. Even after "agreeing" to shoveling and packing out they still do as they please. The big question is: How do we get through to these people?
Most adult humans suck and will never learn. No matter how much you educate them or invent new products to make it easier to haul out trash or dog poop.Most humans have that mentality "Don't worry someone will pick it up". People will leave trash behind even if its on accident, water bottle falling out of a backpack, a wrapper getting taken away by the wind. The only people that get it are the ones that truly love the outdoors and will pick up trash when they see it. The best way to start is with the children. Teach them and instill it in there minds.