Recreate responsibly is one of the phrases being shared with people who are spending more time in outdoor areas. This sign is one shared by the Hoosier National Forest. (Courtesy image)
Recreate responsibly is one of the phrases being shared with people who are spending more time in outdoor areas. This sign is one shared by the Hoosier National Forest. (Courtesy image)
Getting away while staying closer to home is the dilemma for many people across Indiana as Hoosiers deal with ruined vacation plans and fewer ways to enjoy the summer during the current pandemic.

Many are discovering escapes in natural areas, from city parks to national forests, that offer boating, camping, hiking and more. But as more people use those areas, the wear and tear on trails and facilities increases. It’s led some agencies to erect signs, post information on social media and even close some areas during times of higher use.

While the Hoosier National Forest website gives myriad ways people can enjoy Indiana’s only national forest, it also offers suggestions for how people can recreate responsibly, telling people to stay close to home; stay 6 feet apart from others; avoid crowding in parking lots, on trails and other areas; to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines; and to pack out trash and human waste.

Besides following those guidelines, Marion Mason, public affairs specialist with the Hoosier National Forest, believes people should plan ahead. She suggests people start by understanding the Leave No Trace principals. Those guidelines can be found online at www.lnt.org, which also tells viewers that nine out of 10 people in the outdoors are uninformed about how their visit can impact the environment and wildlife that live there.

One of the basic tenets of Leave No Trace is to leave the area better than you found it — staying on trails even if they are muddy so you don’t harm vegetation and cause erosion, packing out trash and empty water bottles, camping in areas that won’t pollute streams or other nearby water, ensuring campfires are cold after use and can’t reignite and lessening the number of people in natural areas to ensure people and wildlife are not disturbed.
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