From time to time, everyone likes to get outdoors and get some fresh air, and when you travel in the process, that's "ecotourism" — hence, ecoDelaware.com. But as you take in the sights and sounds of nature, it's important to observe a few rules of the road; or, in this case, the beaten path. Whether you refer to it as "low-impact camping," "take only pictures, leave only footprints," or some other mantra, in essence we're asking you to tread lightly. According to the nationwide nonprofit group known as Tread Lightly!, this means to:
Travel responsibly by never straying from designated roads, trails and waterways, and always launch your watercraft in a designated area.
Respect the rights of others, including: anglers, boaters, campers, private-property owners, scuba divers, swimmers, skiers, and trail users, just to name a few. Allow them to enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. An easy way to do this is to keep your dog on a leash and pick up its droppings, the latter of which also preserves water quality.
Educate yourself by: obtaining travel maps, learning relevant laws, planning for your trip, taking skill-specific lessons, and knowing how to use and operate your equipment safely. (Hint: where maps are unavailable, take a photograph of the posted map. This may help you if you lose your way but not your camera.)
Avoid sensitive areas, even if they are located on designated routes. These include: lakeshores, stream banks, wetlands, meadows that serve as nesting-bird areas, and wet, eroding trails and bike paths. It's not always easy to tell when you're close to vulnerable animals or terrain, so please keep your dog on a leash at all times. Doing so protects wildlife habitat and sensitive soils from damage. And please, never operate your watercraft in shallow waters or near shorelines at high speeds.
Do your part to leave the area better than you found it by: minimizing the use of fire; properly disposing of fuel, oil and waste; avoiding the spread of invasive species; restoring degraded areas; and joining a local enthusiast organization.
By treading lightly, each of us can ensure the delicate resources of Delaware continue to be protected and enhanced for current and future generations. Now get out there and get active.
Photo by Derek Stoner
Photo by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary