“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” This quote came from Native American Chief Seattle in the 19th century and has since become a motto for the national parks. In short, it tells visitors not to take flowers, rocks, plants or other remnants from the trail, and not to leave behind any garbage or other sign of their presence. Yet, it can be argued that one’s “footprint” can be just as harmful because it wears down the land and causes erosion and other unwanted effects on the nature.
Taking a walk through nature has proven to be good for people in multiple ways, what doesn’t get as much attention is the effect that these people have on the land. Erosion can also be done by physically changing a landscape to accommodate trails. Trails are created for the purpose of enjoyment, but when they are overused or veered off of, issues can arise.
According to a study done by the Department of Leisure Tourism, trails are impacted not only by nature, but by heavy foot traffic as well. Over time the trail will widen, the ground will be worn down and more vegetation will be destroyed. Trails are created where they are for a reason and veering off of them, as tempting as it may be, can damage the land and the ecosystem around the trail. Wandering off the trail can damage the land that the trail was designed to embrace.
At this point you may be asking yourself what we can do to change this. The answer to that question may be to elevate the trail with a boardwalk. Boardwalks can be the best bet for environmental protection for a couple of reasons. They control foot traffic by guiding visitors where they can and cannot walk. Also, by elevating the trail you eliminate ground erosion and compaction. Boardwalks allow for observation and interaction with the nature without harming it. Ground erosion and compaction also causes unnatural rain water run off. By elevating your trail, the ground is not being worn down and the natural rainwater run off is not being interrupted.
If designed correctly, the environmental impact of elevated walkways is minimal. They are a solution in preserving the land that we love so dearly. It is essential that we try to make as little impact upon the natural environment as possible. It is up to us to preserve the land for future generations, so that they can enjoy it just as we do.