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How can Austinites learn to leave no trace in city parks?

Thursday, March 29, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

One of the biggest challenges that Austin is currently facing is the increased use of its parkland. Even with 300 parks, 227 miles of trails, 15 preserves and 16 greenbelts, the influx of residents and visitors can easily take a toll on the environment. In an effort to mitigate the potential catastrophic repercussions of misusing parkland, Austin park rangers are working to pre-emptively “protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly,” Sandra Heath, a park ranger supervisor, told the Parks and Recreation Board at its March 27 meeting. She explained that the park rangers, who are in the parks seven days a week for 10 hours a day, are educating Austinites through the seven principles set forth by the national Leave No Trace organization, which encourages “safe, responsible and sustainable land use.” This grassroots effort that requires personal interaction is surprisingly successful. In partnership with the KUT radio station and Akins High School, program coordinator LaJuan Tucker said that last year the park rangers made 42,672 contacts with citizens to explain the impact that their presence has on parkland. One of the overlooked impacts she said comes from dogs, who produce over 150 pounds of waste each year in city parks. To help grow awareness and increase Austinites’ conscientiousness, Tucker said that the best thing that the Parks and Recreation Board could do was alert Council members to pass the message to their constituents. Board Member Randy Mann addressed the two park rangers approvingly: “We need a lot more folks like you,” he said.

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