The Environmental Impact of Trail Running

2 in a 3 part Series (to read part one click here)

As a trail loving community, we should all be actively looking for ways to reinvest in the outdoor spaces that bring us such joy.

 

Love Our Trails is a South African based international movement that aims to protect trails around the world through education and activations. It was founded by Blake Dyason after noticing the increase in litter and graffiti on local trails. Blake is an outdoor enthusiast and proudly South African. He leads by example, believing we all have a responsibility to make a positive difference in the world around us. He invited friends to assist with mountain clean-ups, and quickly realised that cleaning up after others isn’t enough – we also need to educate fellow trail users.

We asked Blake for some insight on what drives his passion, and how we can do more to tread gently on our trails.

“Outdoor activities are growing at a rapidly around the world and in the past few years we have seen an increase in mountain biking, trail running, rock climbing and hiking. 

As much as I love to see more people getting out in nature we have also noticed an increase in poor trail etiquette, litter, graffiti, vagrant trails and erosion.  Over the past 4 years Love Our Trails has been hosting regular clean-ups with volunteers on Table Mountain and Lions Head, documenting what we collect and the graffiti we remove. In the past 4 years we have collected close on 2 tons of litter. 

Now that we have some data our focus is on building a trail culture that cares for our environment, educating people about what litter is, as many trail users think fruit peels or left over food is eco-friendly. Anything that wasn't there before shouldn’t be left there.

We would take the assumption that newbie trail runners are more inclined to be unaware of the impact of litter on the trails, or perhaps carry across some road running habits. Regular trail users have trail packs and re-usable bottles. This led us to noticing that if our trails are clean they stay clean for longer; the newbie trail users generally copy what they see and if we set a standard of leaving no trace and picking up litter they tend to follow suit. 

But the regular trail users aren't innocent, especially when it comes to going off trail or exploring sensitive environments or less popular trails. It normally starts with a blog or Instagram picture and people suddenly want to capture the same picture or experience without knowing the route. I get it, we want to connect with nature and there is no better feeling than exploring, feeling lost, using all your senses and finding something magical like a cave or view point. 

When we walk off trail we encourage others to do the same, potentially damaging vegetation and leading to erosion, changing the flow of water and disturbing the eco-system.

 

Evidence of trail erosion 

Not only is this dangerous, but as more people explore off trail our rescue teams are put under strain and our parks managers or land owners spend unnecessary time repairing trails and 

rehabilitating vegetation instead of looking after the trail users and the sustainability of the environment.  

All trail users should adopt the Love Our Trails 5 step guideline.

  1. Leave nothing but foot prints

  2. Take nothing but pictures

  3. Keep to the trail

  4. Lookout for other trail users

  5. Leave the trail in a better way than you found it.”

For more on Love Our Trails and how you can be involved in clean-up operations, visit http://loveourtrails.com/