Great Parks’ “leave no trace” programs share practices to explore the outdoors with mindfulness

Great Parks of Hamilton County offers year-round opportunities to adventure outside and learn throughout the seasons. Two programs, the Spring Training for Backpacking series and the Adventure Skills: Leave No Trace workshop focus on practices to enjoy the outdoors with mindfulness. People learn the impacts — some unintended and not so obvious — and ways to reduce their footprint in our wild places.

These programs delve into the seven principles of leave no trace outlined by the Center for Outdoor Ethics and provide guidelines on minimum impact practices, including: planning and preparing ahead; traveling and camping on durable surfaces; disposal of waste; minimizing campfire impacts; respecting wildlife; and consideration of other visitors.

The Adventure Skills: Leave No Trace workshop, which will be held February 8 at Winton Woods from noon–3 p.m., details how these principles can be implemented during outdoor adventures. Allison Crone, adventure outpost coordinator emphasizes the goal is “to inform outdoor enthusiasts” whether they be explorers, dog walkers, or trail hikers

The Spring Training for Backpacking series is another opportunity to learn about implementing leave no trace practices into activities in nature.

This seven-part program runs until March. Each event, hosted in parks throughout Hamilton County, includes an incrementally longer hike and a focus on one of the seven principles each time. Crone leads this program as well. She says it’s a way to help get more people outside in the winter and also be better prepared for backpacking trips by April.

According to Crone, this is a chance for outdoor enthusiasts to “not only go out and explore, but know their impact so they can preserve.”

Along with education on the leave no trace principles and their implementations, the backpacking series partners those ideas with valuable skills for the outdoors. To compliment minimizing campfire impacts, backpackers will learn how to build a fire, maintain it properly, and clean up with minimal to no trace.

Crone says nine out of ten people are unaware of the effect they may have on the outdoors.

“It’s mostly a matter of bringing attention to the impacts,” she says.

For example, most may know to not burn plastic or aluminum trash in their firepits, but not everyone knows not to burn food scraps, as well. While those food scraps may burn, their smell can linger and attract uninvited visitors in the night. This perpetuates the cycles of unwanted people and wildlife interaction by habituating animals to human food.

This is the first year for the backpacking series. “[It’s] an attempt to try something new,” Crone says, “and to maybe even attract more or different people to the park.”

The backpacking events range from about $10–20 dollars, and the workshop is $20. Registration is required. More details can be found on the Great Parks events page.

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Emily Dillingham is a Cincinnati native and University of Cincinnati graduate with degrees in English and Geology. She writes full-time for a local material science company and lives in Brighton with her husband and pack of dogs. Follow her on Instagram @keeperoftheplants