New Year’s Resolution: Recreating Responsibly

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is partnering with DiscoverNEPA on a series that promotes the state’s wonderful outdoors. Keep an eye on this series for updates on PEC projects, volunteer opportunities, Tail on the Trail activities and so much more.

Rachael Stark, Northeastern Pennsylvania Program Coordinator

Northeastern Pennsylvania is known for its stunning waterways, picturesque landscapes, and an abundance of outdoor recreational activities. From the majestic Pocono Mountains to the tranquil shores of Lake Wallenpaupack, the region offers endless activities for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike; such as white water rafting, waterfall ice hiking, gravel riding, and other opportunities that are distinctive to the region. However, with this privilege comes a great responsibility to practice responsible recreation – here are some ways you can do your part while recreating in NEPA and beyond.

Leave No Trace

The principles of Leave No Trace emerged in the 90s in response to a U.S. Forest Service campaign that recognized the need for a standard guideline for responsible recreation. Simply put, Leave No Trace encourages visitors to leave the outdoors better than they found it. They offer seven principles to help do so: (1) Plan Ahead & Prepare, (2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, (3) Dispose of Waste Properly, (4) Leave What You Find, (5) Minimize Campfire Impact, (6) Respect Wildlife, and (7) Be Considerate of Others. Some examples of proper LNT practices might include packing out trash (including any waste from your dog), keeping your distance from wildlife, and opting for the solo stove instead of a fire during your camping trip. By adhering to these principles, you can help to ensure that the beauty of Pennsylvania’s wilderness remains unspoiled for years to come.

Support Local Conservation Efforts

Maintaining trails is a team effort, and there are numerous organizations dedicated to preserving Pennsylvania’s natural resources. Consider donating your time, funds, or skills to these local conservation efforts. Volunteers are always needed to maintain trails, build new paths, restore wilderness, and assist with educational activities. By participating in volunteer days, joining local advocacy groups, and supporting eco-tourism initiatives you can greatly contribute to the sustainability of PA’s outdoor recreational destinations.

Practice Proper Trail Etiquette

Pennsylvania boasts an extensive network of trails that cater to hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers. Practicing proper trail etiquette goes a long way toward keeping our trails clean, safe and enjoyable for everyone. Consider learning about right of ways so you can properly yield to other users, having awareness of your surroundings, and keeping the music to a headphone to help those that prefer the sound of the birds. Sharing the trail also offers a unique opportunity to connect with others, so make sure to say hello!

Educate Yourself and Others

Educating yourself about the natural and cultural history of Pennsylvania will enhance your appreciation and enable you to become a responsible advocate for its protection. Share your knowledge with others and respectfully engage in conversation that encourages responsible behavior.

Lastly, be patient. Since 2020, many new users have taken to the outdoors in ways that are different from how you may enjoy it. It’s easy to become frustrated and to assume that visitors should know better, but a little kind connection can go a long way. At the end of the day, we all adventure to the outdoors to connect – whether it is with nature, others, or ourselves – and the world needs more of that.

Looking for ideas on where to recreate in 2024? We collaborated with Purple Lizards to bring you the new Pennsylvania Statewide Outdoor Recreation map. It features 114 rail trails and bikeways, 124 state parks, 20 state forests, 20 ski areas, and much more.

Rachael Stark was born and raised in NEPA. She is a 2017 graduate from King’s College with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and is pursuing her master’s in Sustainability. She is currently the NEPA Program Coordinator at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. She is incredibly passionate about recreating responsibly in the outdoors and enjoys exploring the natural beauty in NEPA. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her dog, traveling and volunteering.