5 Tips to Get Your Friends to Help Protect Trails
We recently talked to three hikers who have advocated for trails in official and unofficial ways about what works best to get friends on board for saving trails.
Taste this chocolate cake. Smell this sagebrush. Come see these stars. When something spectacular snags our attention, our immediate next instinct is to share. It’s remarkable, really, how naturally our instincts take us directly from experiencing to sharing. Joy is sweeter in good company.
What if that instinct to share something we love is also the key to demonstrating leadership for protecting trails? When we go hiking with friends or family, most of us don’t elect a hike leader. But the power of groups to set social norms is well documented and has the potential to be a powerful force for positive change. But how? We recently talked to three hikers who have advocated for trails in official and unofficial ways about what works best to get friends on board for saving trails.
Assume people want to minimize impact
If they hike, they might already be on board. “Anyone who hikes and is respectful toward nature is an advocate for the outdoors,” said Caroline Lochner, a WTA youth ambassador who has taken a personal love for the wild places of the Pacific Northwest into classrooms and school clubs by advocating for safer trail usage.
Build on your relationships
Be a subtle teacher, suggests Cassidy Giampetro, WTA’s statewide advocacy senior coordinator. “I think an important piece of inspiring better stewardship among friends or peers is relying on the trust you’ve already built with each other that allows for growth. Your friends and peers know and respect your opinion and are likely bought-in to learning from you.”
“I think it’s important to set an example among peers and friends about taking care of the outdoors,” said Anna Pree, a former WTA youth ambassador and Lost Trails Found crew member. “First by practicing Leave No Trace and doing trail maintenance or environmental work if you can. This can be anything from picking up wrappers you see on the ground to spending time at volunteer work parties and encouraging people to join.”
Create good vibes
Setting a good example, Anna says, extends beyond the trail and into group dynamics, too. “I think it’s important to take care in making the outdoors a more welcoming and inclusive space. This can look like lending extra gear, answering questions and avoiding making assumptions about people.”
Encourage, don’t preach
“We always encourage each other to leave the campsite and trails clean, and make sure the outdoors is a safe and inclusive space for everyone,” said Anna about time with friends. Having a non-pretentious attitude toward any experience level and accepting people of diverse identities, backgrounds and abilities, is key to taking responsibility for trails in ways that feel less like work and more like sharing the joy of the outdoors, she says.