Preserving nature: When visiting, take only pictures, leave only footprints

From left, Anne Noack, along with her children, Lilian and Luke, walk along a trail Aug. 31 evening in the Thornwood Preserve. Tom Russo | Daily Report er
From left, Anne Noack, along with her children, Lilian and Luke, walk along a trail Aug. 31 evening in the Thornwood Preserve. Tom Russo | Daily Report er

HANCOCK COUNTY — Now that Thornwood Nature Preserve has been officially open to the public for weeks (I know some of you were sneaking out there before: I got you on my trail camera), I thought it would be a good time to answer some the questions I’ve been asked the most. I also will cover a few other items that need addressing. So far, about 15 people per day sign the log sheet, and I figure there’s another 45 percent who visit the park but don’t sign in.

» The number one question has been: When will there be a portable restroom?

This is still up in the air. Those things are expensive to rent, and placement is a problem. Should it go up in the parking lot, or down by the bridge? Up in the parking lot it could be a temptation for vandals, down by the bridge it might have to be moved quickly in the event of a flood. When we start getting youth groups camping, one will be provided. If we get enough people camping on the weekends one will be provided, but we need enough people to cover the cost.

» Next up is trash: Why are we carry in, carry out?

Very few nature preserves, if any, have trash containers. It gets down to simple economics and problems with some of the public. If you can carry it in, carry it out, take it home and throw it away there. The example I give people is the trash container at the far western end of the Pennsy Trail. This seems to get quite a bit of peoples’ trash from home, not to mention construction material and old auto parts (I should mention that this also happens in Riley Park, and if caught, you could be arrested and charged for theft of services). I’m starting to see trash in the parking lot and on the trails.

» People also ask me about dog waste receptacles. Part of the reason we don’t have them is the same as above; people will not use it only for the intended purpose but will stuff other trash in them. Bring a bag and take it home with you.

» Camping at the preserve has been brought up a time or two. We have a primitive area for camping. This means that you carry your stuff in and carry it out, including trash. If enough people are camping, there will be a portable toilet furnished. See me if I’m out there and I can suggest alternatives that will work. A brief summary of the rules are posted at the preserve. The most important rule is that you must be registered at the parks office in order to camp and receive a permit that hangs in your vehicle. Without this, you can be considered trespassing after hours. The hours are dawn to dusk, unless I’m doing an after-dark nature program — in that case there will be a park vehicle there.

» Please log in. We have this just to track the number of people who visit. Even if you are a returning visitor, please log in, the more who visit the more we can adjust things out there. While the amusing comments are welcome, please refrain from leaving nasty comments. Kids read the log book, too.

» Other notes: We do have city and county police who drop by. That’s your fair warning. Be there without permission and we get to read your name in the paper.

A bridge over one of the drainage ditches to the campground is complete, plus two new boardwalks. This was an Eagle Scout project. I have a few other projects I’d like to see so if you’re looking for an Eagle Project, contact the parks office and we’ll have a chat.

We now have a picnic area next to the campground; there is a trash barrel on site.

For some reason this year, there are areas on the Green Trail that are holding water longer than normal and are tending to remain soggy longer. We will address these problems as time allows.

As a final word, go out there, have fun, clean up after yourself and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Joe Whitfield is a naturalist and gardener for the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department. Send comments to