Often we find things on the trails and we get to use them as clues to interpret what happened.
Our most recent favorite find was in an email from Dick Brewer, our volunteer naturalist. Dick found a recently-killed alligator (or its parts) on the trail and, based on all of the clues he saw, deduced that a bobcat had taken down the gator.
That is a way more interesting find than the photo above, which was taken by one of FGCU’s awesome campus naturalists who was out on the CREW Marsh Trails.
In the photo you see what was once a storage shed that was located in the woods near Suzanne’s Pavillion. It sat empty this summer because, in the winter, we had incidences of hikers breaking into our plastic shed. I’m not sure what they hoped to find – gold, rare artifacts, maybe that’s where they think the panthers hide? We once stored field trip supplies in that shed, but those had to be moved and our volunteers built permanent storage solutions for those materials in order to avoid someone stealing our dip nets and plastic bins.
Now, it’s important to note that this photo didn’t suprise us. The day before this mess was found, we led a tour at the Marsh trails and Savannah and I found watermelon rinds thrown around the parking lot along with a few plastic forks. Then, out on the trails, we found pieces of blue balloons.
So this party photo – where somone decided to stash their garbage in our old storage shed?
Unsurprising. Sad, A total mess and worse – a wildlife hazard.
Who tore into that delicious trash? A bear. A bear that frequents the area, because we can see the scat when we do hikes. And now that bear has a new favorite place. I mean, if I found a storage shed full of leftover cake and watermelon, I would go back and look for more.
The stash of trash, plastic blue balloon pieces and food in the parking lot tells a story – and it’s not a good one. Someone planned a party, brought their supplies out, hiked to the pavillion, had a great time, cleaned up the trash, looked around for a garbage can, found our storage shed off the trail, busted into it and stashed their trash. Hiked back. Went home. Didn’t think about the ballons they let blow all over; didn’t think about the wildlife out there who might try and eat the balloon pieces, or the bear who would tear apart the shed to get to their garbage.
We practice leave no trace for a lot of reasons at our trails, and the number one reason is to protect wildlife. We can’t emphasize this enough – the land is there for water first, then wildlife, then humans. We come third.
So, how can someone host an event at the pavillion and avoid making a huge giant dangerous mess? Check out our suggestions below.
Only pack in what you can pack out
A big old sheet cake that requires forks, plates and napkins is going to be terribly difficult to cart to the pavillion and that’s an approximately one mile hike at the Marsh Trails. Instead, take a box of cupcakes and a plastic bag. Eat the cupcakes, put your cupcake wrappers and cardboard box cupcake carrier into your small trash bag and stash it in your backpack. Then go enjoy the trails. Or grab birthday-cake flavored snack bars. Or pack fruit! Anything that doesn’t leave you with a bunch of waste is a great idea.
Release joy, not balloons
Instead of bringing balloons to celebrate or decorate, opt for singing a birthday song to celebrate. Bonus if the songbirds join in. Or, if you reall need something to set the birthday boy/girl apart from the crowd, decorate their hiking stick for the day. Just not with balloons. Please.
Hike, then eat
Instead of taking all of your food out to the pavillion, opt instead to eat at our convenient ring of benches at the trailhead in the parking lot. It’s a very cool, shaded spot, and your food and drinks can stay nice and cool in a cooler in your car. That’s much better than trying to heat lunch that is boiling lava hot after hiking in the Florida sun for an hour or more. And then you are very close to your car so you can toss your waste in a trash bag that you brought, put the garbage in your trunk and drive home.
We do want everyone to enjoy the pavillions, which are a fabulous resource that we use for all of our field trips and many Strolling Science Seminars. We hope you do so respectfully and, if you need assistance or tips about how to use them appropriately, please contact our office.
A special thank you to FGCU colloquium and Brenda Thomas; the class cleaned up the garbage and the shed and hiked it all out to the trail head during their class field trip.