Rules, rules, rules. They’re everywhere. Rules to protect nature are easily broken and hard to enforce. I see signs posted everywhere and then I often see people standing in front of the signs breaking the rules.
Crime: Feeding the ducks
Why it’s discouraged: Bread is not their natural diet and feeding in groups encourages unnatural feeding patterns and outbreaks of botulism. Waterfowl have died in mass outbreaks at the lakes in Huntington Beach Central Park and Lake Forest. Here’s a brochure from Oregon and a video from North Carolina about why it’s not encouraged.
What can you do instead? Bring a nature journal or a camera to the park. Start a photo collection of nature.
Crime: Walking off trail
Why it’s discouraged: The trails are there to bridge people into nature. They provide access to otherwise protected areas. When you walk off trail, you degrade the natural areas by stomping on animals and plants and adding to erosion.
What can you do instead? Go on guided hikes where the access to protected areas are controlled and effects minimized. Find areas that aren’t protected — like wide expanses of lawn at our regional parks — and run wild there. Familiarize yourself and your family with Leave No Trace principles.
Crime: Collecting treasures
Why it’s discouraged: Removing rocks and shells from the beach or picking flowers from the trail disturbs the natural habitat. That hermit crab might not be able to find its next shell and those rocks or flowers won’t be there for the next visitor to enjoy. Just because we love it, doesn’t mean we have to own it. Read the good tidepooler rules here: http://www.ocmarineprotection.org/index.php
What can you do instead? If you must “own” it — take a photograph. I love our collection of photos from all the treasures we’ve found – and with smart phones it’s easy to capture them forever. If you still feel the need to pick something up, collecting trash can actually benefit the environment. I also find sticks are a great thing to collect from local parks. They’ve fallen from trees already and the landscapers are just going to dispose of them when they clean up the leaves.
Get out there and play and observe and get dirty — just know the rules and help protect the places you enjoy by setting a good example for others.
Michele Whiteaker promotes play on her FunOrangeCountyParks.com personal blog.