Remember when you were a kid and foolishly messed something up, your mom or another adult would sign and say, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” I got that a few times in my childhood. I may have already said it a time or two as a mother. Eventually, I gained enough wisdom to have nice things, and I know the same will be true of my children as we teach them diligently.
There is a concept in the outdoor enthusiast world called “Leave no trace.” The basic notion means to make sure that you don’t mar the natural environment that we all want to enjoy. It is how we can have “nice things” as an outdoor community.
Like everything else, there are several opinions about the extent and details of this concept. I think that painted rocks and rock sculptures are fine. They add a little touch of humanity to nature. Happening upon a rock tower while hiking a remote area tells me that another person has seen this beautiful spot too. It makes me feel connected to others. There are some, however, who would vehemently disagree with me. It’s a matter of opinion so we can have that debate.
We can all agree on some other things. Ask anyone who enjoys the outdoors, and they will tell you that it is never OK to litter or fail to clean up after your pets. No one wants to look at trash on the ground or step in Fido’s mess. These are the obvious ones.
Another obvious case, and why I am so mad, is vandalism. It is never OK to damage, destroy, or remove signs, gates, event materials, or any other authorized materials along the trail. There is no excuse for this behavior.
This summer, our Rail Tail and Library teamed up to place a Story Walk along a small section of the trail. It was a darling activity that helped get families out walking and enjoying nature. The Story Walk is a series of signs with sequential pages from a picture book. As you walk, you read the stories and do the activities on each page.
Unfortunately, a volunteer found that several of the signs had been pulled up and flung haphazardly around. They couldn’t even recover some of the signs!
We could chalk this up to immaturity. To be sure, such behavior is immature. But we should not let the vandals off the hook so easily. Why? Because we are trying to build something bigger than ourselves here in town. We are making a wonderful place for anyone to live. We are making a place that will attract visitors so we can have a healthy economic future. We are constructing a community of people who care about each other and the town. Essentially, we are trying to have nice things!