The idea of leaving no trace when exploring the outdoors just got a major boost at Buffalo National River Park in Arkansas.
The national park was declared a “Leave No Trace Gold Standard Site” by the Colorado-based Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.
The park becomes only the sixth national park to earn the designation, and the first in Arkansas.
Leave No Trace, of course, applies to trash. But it’s also about not stacking rocks along the river or on trails, hiking and camping with the least impact on the environment and having a mindset of “take only pictures, leave only footsteps.”
“Rangers often educate visitors about Leave No Trace,” said Cassie Branstetter, chief of interpretation at BNR. “We generally review the seven principles with them, depending on what situation a visitor finds themselves in.”
To be named a Leave No Trace Gold Standard Site, a park must meet the following criteria:
- Demonstrate successful implementation of Leave No Trace outdoor skills and ethics into management, programming, outreach and education efforts at the site;
- Formally train staff and community partners in Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics;
- Include Leave No Trace language and messaging on signs at trailheads, visitor centers and campgrounds as well as in pamphlets, maps and other distributed materials for visitors;
- Facilitate Leave No Trace interpretive programs including ranger talks, campfire events and trail outings for visitors.
“Leave No Trace is thrilled to announce Buffalo National River as a designated Gold Standard Site,” said Dana Watts, Leave No Trace executive director. “The hard work of staff and local community stakeholders means that Buffalo National River is a leading force in the Leave No Trace movement nationally and an example of how effective the role of education is in protecting our public lands.”
Despite signs and trash bins, Branstetter said littering still is a problem in the park.
“Staff and volunteers spend many many hours every month picking up trash,” she said. “Some of the trash may be accidental, such as things that have fallen out of a tipped over canoe, or purposeful, such as visitors who leave behind trash at a campsite.”
Rock cairns — river rocks stacked up by visitors — also have become a problem.
“Stacking rocks is a practice that we unfortunately still see at Buffalo National River,” Branstetter said. “It relates to Leave No Trace Principle No. 4, ‘Leave What You Find.’ It is important to leave natural and historical areas as they were when you arrived, so that accidental damage doesn’t occur, and so that the next visitor can have the same natural experience.”
The Boulder, Colorado-based Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics details the seven principles of “leave no trace” on its website.