Leave No Trace
This is a fascinating story and brings up a few issues about the management of our open spaces.
One of the first things that struck was the fact that Scott Jurek just took the citations and never made a fuss about it. Where as it’s the Park Director who has taken this to social media to make a big issue of it. I’ll give them all the citations except for littering for spilling some champagne now that’s just silly. The Facebook statement does smart of publicity seeking to me but as we know especially on Social Media these kind of things can backfire as can be seen.
I don’t personally know Scott Jurek but from what I know of the man as well as being an incredible athlete is an all over great guy and he is also a proponent of leave no trace when on the trails. In fact he posted how his wife sorted all the rubbish from the journey (Clif Bar and Gel wrappers) in order to recycle them with Terracycle
The article actually asks some bigger questions. How do we want our open spaces managed? There are very few places left on this small planet of ours that are a true wilderness that are the type the Victorian Explorers went to visit. Most countries now have some sort of National Parks systems or Protected status for certain areas of wilderness. If these area’s didn’t exist I could easily see them destroyed when Man’s (and Women’s) short-sightedness and when greed takes over. How though should they be managed? Should they be some hermetically sealed environment just for us to look at or should we be able to immerse ourselves in them?
As a Trailrunner I want the freedom to run and enjoy the environment. As far as I understand the American system of National Parks and other Environmental Management is a lot more tightly regulated for users than those in Scotland and the rest of the U.K. Here in Scotland (unlike England, NI and Wales) we have the Right to Roam it was enshrined in the 2003 Land Reform Act and enforces the legal right of responsible access. The Right to Roam has always historically been available in Scotland but the 2003 Act placed it in law. Scotland has alway’s had slightly different laws to England and Wales regarding land and access. Another example is the legality of wild Camping which in Scotland is legal but the rest of the U.K is not. A lot of this could be due to the amount of open land in the wonderful Highlands we have access to and the Historical perspective of this.
The management of National Parks within the U.K seems to have a lot lighter touch for users than in the U.S. I can only state this from my own experience and from what I have read so excuse me if I am incorrect. I grew up near the New Forest which is a place that holds many happy memories for me. The modern Forest is obviously not as large as the ancient forest that used to cover a large part of Southern England. It however is still a glorious place and a wonderful area to visit if you ever get a chance. The New Forest like many places though has alway’s been managed to some degree. The Verderers of the New Forest have been in existence since the 1800’s and have a responsibility to protect and Administer the land. The area has been protected and administered over the years with the Majority being owned by the Crown. It was not until 2005 that it became a National Park the debates around this classification were many and one of the main objections to the classification was the argument that it would mean that the area was over regulated and therefore stagnate. It is again the argument between preservation and use or development.
Even if you never step a foot in your countryside we all want it to remain. The balance between regulation and freedom of access to the land is a fine one. I am lucky that I live in easy access to areas of the Highlands that are some of the wildest and remote in the British Isles but even those areas nearer population centres can feel wild and add so much to our Country and to the planet as a whole. These areas need to be protected but without too harsh a hand that makes them feel as regulated as our town streets. The case of Scott Jurek getting the citations to me speaks of over regulation and officiousness but without first hand knowledge of the way those areas are managed in the U.S it is a view from afar.
If though we all try and follow the ethics of Leave No Trace these wonderful places will still exist for our children and the need for over regulation will not even be an issue as over regulation normally is a knee jerk reaction to the misuse of these areas.