“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 beside their footprint. 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.
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. The soil gets compacted by the heavy foot traffic making it hard for vegetation to ever grow there again. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the soil to get contaminated either. People often leave behind more than their footprint. No matter if it is a small wrapper or something bigger, all waste adds up very quickly and can lead to a dirty and damaged park.
At this point you may be asking yourself what we can do to change this. The answer to that question is to elevate your trail with a boardwalk. Boardwalks are the best bet for environmental protection for a couple of reasons. They control foot traffic by guiding visitors where they can and cannot walk. They enable the placement of waste bins to eliminate littering. Also, by elevating the trail, you eliminate foot traffic that causes 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 runoff. By elevating your trail, the ground is not being worn down and the natural rainwater runoff 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.