Love and Respect Our Parks

A recent news story about a celebrity defacing some rocks in Arizona is a good reminder that nature is not ours to do with whatever we want.

Last week, Vanessa Hudgens, who you may know from High School Musical or Grease: Live, visited Sedona’s mountains with her boyfriend and posted a photo of their names carved into the rocks. Now they’re under investigation for the incident, punishable by fines and/or jail time.

We don’t want any members to go through the same ordeal, so we referred to the National Park Service’s rules and regulations to remind us how to treat our precious landmarks.

No defacing natural resources.

Let’s first address the topic at hand: Our parks, especially National Parks, are regulated for their protection, as well as yours. If visitors were allowed to steal or disfigure everything in sight, there’d be nothing left to protect. This includes digging, engraving, vandalizing, climbing or destruction of objects or monuments.

No collecting or distributing natural resources.

Rocks, plants and animals are all off limits, as are any other historical or archeological feature. This should go without saying, but hunting is also prohibited. Live and let live.

No drones or other unmanned aircraft.

You can get some really cool views with a drone, but the risk of disturbing wildlife and colliding with fragile landmarks isn’t worth it.

No feeding the animals.

There have been stories at the Great Smoky Mountains about bears receiving food from people. In their mind, humans then become a source of food so they become comfortable going up to anyone in hopes of a meal. Because of this, the park has had to euthanize bears to protect the people in the park. In any circumstance, always store your food and clean up your trash using the designated receptacles.

Only build fires where permitted.

Because of the threat of forest fires, don’t go lighting your own open flames. The parks allow campfires on grates or grills provided in various campsites. Smoking cigarettes is limited in the backcountry, you just need to stay in one place and make sure all flames are extinguished.

Don’t disturb the peace.

Any motorized equipment, radios, TVs, musical instruments, etc., must be at a respectable volume given the location and time of day.

Stay on the path.

Most of the park trails have designated paths or boardwalks for visitors. Again, this is to protect both you and the environment. There could be steep drops, poisonous vegetation or animal habitats that you’re best not getting involved with.

Don’t throw objects.

You can do some serious damage throwing a single rock or a coin, believe it or not. You could start an avalanche or cause serious injury to hikers or wildlife.

Though many State and City Parks around the country may have slightly different regulations, the lesson here is universal: Know the park’s rules before going in and treat nature with love and respect.

Tell us in the comments how you do your part in preserving our parks.

Corey is a writer from Overland Park, KS, and has been with Global Discovery Vacations since September 2013. Once a sportswriter, he traveled the country and became proficient in airport security line etiquette and leaving items in hotel rooms.