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Earth Day 2021: Protecting Western New York's trails

"Be aware, be kind."
So many people are escaping to nature during the pandemic, today is a day to give back
Posted at 6:49 AM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 17:53:54-04

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — No matter the season, we can always count on mother nature to deliver here in WNY.

"The Eternal flame where at here, we’ve got Letchworth state park, the Niagara gorge, we’ve got some great resources to take advantage of," said Mike Radomski, CAO—Chief Adventure Officer— of Outside Chronicles.

During the pandemic, many more people are escaping to nature.

Outside Chronicles is hosting their annual hiking challenge and this year’s is bigger than ever before. 3500 hikers are taking part and they will exceed $70,000 in donations for the WNY Land Conservancy and Finger Lakes Trail Conference, per Radomski.

“I think because of COVID, there’s been a three times increase in trail users at county parks in Erie County," said Jacob Bodway, President of the WNY Mountain Bicycling Association.

More hikers can mean more work for Bodway and Michaela Aney's team at the Finger Lakes Trail Conference. There are miles and miles of trails manage and build, which falls on their organizations and you.

Local groups work to rebuild trails and keep them safe during hiking season
Local groups work to rebuild trails and keep them safe during hiking season

"It’s more or less educating folks and making sure they no what to do when they go out to enjoy the outdoors," said Aney, Director of Trail Development.

For Earth Day this year, they ask hikers to focus on doing their part.

"Leave a place better than you found it," said Aney.

So here's a hiker's checklist of tips to use before you hit the trails:

  • Plan ahead:
    • Know if you’re on private, county or state property and know their rules
    • Have a backup plan
    • Get a map
  • Stay on the trail
    • When in doubt, follow the signs
    • It’s also for your safety and to protect vegetation around you
    • "We’ve had a lot of rescues at zoar valley and a lot of that is people not following the trail," said Radomski.
  • Leave no trace
    • Everything you bring, take back with you
    • Bring a trash bag and clean any trash you see
    • Brush your boots before you go home
    • Encourage others to do the same
  • Be safe
    • Have an emergency contacts
    • Tell people where you're going
    • Be aware of yourself and others