The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
chrisca
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The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by chrisca » November 13th, 2016, 1:01 pm

Our favorite trails are becoming crowded and damaged at a frightening rate. Many of you have seen this photo:
Oneonta Crowds.jpg
(photo by Kate Bailey French, Weinstein PR)
Spoiler: show
Some responses, start of thread continues below:
The OP is Chris Carvalho (www.lensjoy.com, Twitter @gorgepulse)
I especially like the concept of Koda's "Leave No Trace Virtually." Or perhaps "Leave No Virtual Trace" and the hashtag #LNVT when writing about the idea on social media.
A possible modification to the pledge is "A commitment to think carefully about the consequences before posting photos of sensitive, popular, or lesser-known places on social media." But I'm not sure if watering down the idea is worth it.
I'd like to foster a discussion about what the hiking community can do to address this growing issue. The cat's out of the bag, and we may never return to the days when one could visit a better-known trail in the Columbia Gorge and enjoy solitude. What I'm after is your ideas on reducing crowds. One I'm considering is "The Quiet Pledge," a commitment to never post photos of sensitive, popular, or lesser-known places on social media. As a photographer, I'm guilty of it somewhat myself, but seldom disclose a location unless it's recognizable already. I'm now considering going further underground and not posting photos at all on social media, only written descriptions with no reference to the location. The Quiet Pledge is an addition to conservation ethics and hiking etiquette, something that has become necessary in our new age of instant photo sharing. It would become, in some sense, the Eleventh Essential.

Other thoughts we've all likely considered:
• Charge fees for access and/or parking
• Require permits with quotas
• Build more trails
• Close overcrowded trails on some days of the week or times of the year
• Designate more areas as wilderness
• Advance warning by land managers that overused areas will be closed or visitation restricted if social media sharing isn’t curtailed, followed up with action if warnings are ineffective.
• The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (http://lnt.org/) should add the Leave No Virtual Trace principle to its ethical code.
• Standard signage that’s used worldwide at sensitive sites to advise visitors to curtail posting on social media.
• Government and conservation groups could create an open database of areas with excessive impact. Social media companies could check the location of posts against the database and warn the poster of the risks and consequences of sharing.
• Public education campaigns to make people more aware of how social media sharing can damage habitat, and ask users to go back through their timelines and take down photos of overused areas to reduce future impacts.
• An aggressive campaign of charging access fees for overused areas to discourage visitation, with the fee dollars devoted to construction of new trails to spread out the impact
• Social media users can respond constructively when someone’s postings endanger wildlands.
• Voters and conservation groups can put pressure on elected officials to restore lost funding for land preservation and recreation development.
• Land managers should work with social media companies to enable donations from within applications when sensitive sites are being viewed to create a new funding source for protection and restoration efforts.


None of these ideas are perfect or desirable. But we are in great need of some creative thinking and discussion as we see around 100 people move to the Portland area every day, social media are accelerating the visibility of our region globally, and the restoration of the Gorge Scenic Highway Trail creates a world-class destination that will bring in large numbers of international tourists, each looking for an idealized nature experience that sadly, is no longer possible.

We need to consider that there have been many threats to wild areas: motorized travel, logging, litter, livestock, energy development, mining, housing, etc. When each was new it wasn't believed to be a problem but when it reached critical mass, the threat was recognized and required regulation to keep it controlled. Internet social media is quite possibly another one in this long line of threats. It's still early, but the Internet's rapid pace of advancement is forcing us to recognize the problem quickly and respond before it's too late. Hopefully ethics rather than regulation can be the solution, but history says otherwise.

Let fly with your thoughts. A ground rule: If responding with criticism, please make an alternative suggestion. I plan to write a longer piece on this topic. The discussion is bringing out some good perspectives on all sides. Please keep them coming.

I've recently (December 2017) been in contact with the Leave No Trace Institute. I will share their response in an upcoming article. Here's a graphic you can use when talking to others about Leave No Virtual Trace:
Leave No Virtual Trace Graphic.jpg
More reading: "Loved to Death: How Instagram Is Destroying Our Natural Wonders." https://theringer.com/instagram-geotagg ... .evqrskkyg

Travel Oregon social media guide for the Columbia Gorge, specifically encourages sharing on social media: http://industry.traveloregon.com/conten ... ontent.pdf

Thanks,

Chris.
Attachments
Leave No Virtual Trace Graphic.jpg
Last edited by chrisca on April 16th, 2018, 11:11 am, edited 11 times in total.

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romann
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Re: The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by romann » November 13th, 2016, 2:36 pm

I agree with your point about not posting on sensitive areas on social media (but my take is, the less visited the place is, the more I think before posting anything about it - better not let cat out of the bag in the first place ;) ). Writing about popular areas? - it probably depends where you post it; another Oneonta or Eagle Creek report on this site won't make a difference. If you post it on Facebook or Backpacker Magazine, and convince more people from East Coast to spend vacation here - I'd be careful about that.

What to do about areas that already got crowded? My take is, nothig if at all possible. Yes I know it's tempting to restrict access to some of the most popular spots, but then 100's of people will just move to the next trail. I think (would like to hear from a biologist) that 20 people wading Oneonta creek will ruin salmon's day just as bad as 220 people. If it gets restricted, the rest of the crowd will go to splash in Tanner and Eagle Creek. And then we'll need to restrict the next trail, and cycle continues. Population is growing, the best we can do is help the crowds stay where they are.

There are a lot more quiet places than crowded ones, even in the Gorge. For one Oneonta and Eagle Creek, there are about 100 of quiet streams out there.

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retired jerry
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Re: The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by retired jerry » November 13th, 2016, 2:41 pm

Good question

The crowdedness of Oneonta doesn't bother me. I assume all of those people know what they're getting into. If I encountered that, I wouldn't stop but would go somewhere else.

Harden busy trails - if people wan't to go to a busy place, then make sure it's constructed for the traffic. Actually, that makes some sense to try to get a lot of the people in just a few places so the other places aren't adversely affected.

Where a trail or trailhead is overly busy, for example Oneonta and Eagle Creek, build more trails and trailheads nearby.

Have the shuttle that goes from Portland to Multnomah Falls also go to a couple of the busiest trailheads like Eagle Creek.

I have mixed feeling about publicizing more wild spots. I tend not to but accept other people doing this or not. Usually, if a wild place becomes more popular there's another place I can find that's not.

I like to encourage people to go into the wilderness. I think more awareness will result in more preservation. A small percentage of the area of wilderness has trails and impact from humans. Official Wilderness areas and other federal, state, and private land.

There's more effect on wilderness from habitat loss from development.

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kepPNW
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Re: The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by kepPNW » November 13th, 2016, 5:14 pm

retired jerry wrote:There's more effect on wilderness from habitat loss from development.
FTFY.
Karl
Back on the trail, again...

(Tracks · Photos · PortlandHikers)

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Chase
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Re: The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by Chase » November 13th, 2016, 6:23 pm

chrisca wrote: a commitment to never post photos of sensitive or popular or unpopular places on social media.
Another fix-up.

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retired jerry
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Re: The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by retired jerry » November 13th, 2016, 6:23 pm

FTFY - thank goodness for the google

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Bosterson
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Re: The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by Bosterson » November 14th, 2016, 12:32 pm

chrisca wrote:I'm considering is "The Quiet Pledge," a commitment to never post photos of sensitive or popular places[/strike] on social media.
Fixed that too. Problem solved (for this and so many other things). :D
Will hike off trail for fun.

Aimless
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Re: The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by Aimless » November 14th, 2016, 1:31 pm

Yeah. I am a Facebook refusenik. Also Twitter, Instagram, and any other big 'social media' sites. However small it may be, these forums are a form of social media. We share and socialize here. I think it is important to consider whether one's posting here might cause unwanted problems, and all my trip reports tend to be about trails that are under-appreciated and rarely reported on here at OH.org. I see no reason to add a hundredth report on Angel's Rest.

I'm not sure much can be done about overcrowding of highly popular trails and natural sites. They are attractive for reasons that cannot be hidden just by reducing their profile on social media.

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retired jerry
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Re: The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by retired jerry » November 14th, 2016, 1:46 pm

How about the trail to McNeil Point Shelter or going up from there?

Or the trail to Barret Spur?

pcg
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Re: The Quiet Pledge: What to do about overcrowding

Post by pcg » November 14th, 2016, 4:24 pm

retired jerry wrote:How about the trail to McNeil Point Shelter or going up from there?
Or the trail to Barret Spur?
I would say post away. The Lowe books outed those routes over 30 years ago and it is impossible to go up there in the summer/fall and be by yourself anymore. BC skiers started showing up there in early spring in increasing numbers ten years ago as well.

No one's said anything about guidebooks. As long as guide books confine their beta to popular trails that's OK, in fact it helps keep more people on those trails and not on the lesser known ones. I hate to see new guide books come out with info about lesser known trails. I can think of one in particular, but I'm not mentioning it because I hope no one reads it. Sorry I think the author posts here... :o And Grant McOmie hasn't helped either. He has outed some fairly sensitive areas.

The real problem is population growth, more people moving to the PNW, and of course... trip reports. I, for one, am happy to see more people on the popular trails as that means they aren't on the lesser known ones. My pledge to myself has always been no public trip reports. I used to post reports on Flickr that could only be viewed by friends and family. I tend to go off-trail and explore a lot so I cringe when I see someone post about an area that I thought wasn't well-known and now has been outed. (Here I give a friendly poke at Chip Down :evil: ). Trip reports are useful for reporting conditions and fun to read and see the beautiful photos people take on more popular routes. I have no problem with that and enjoy reading those, but I wish people wouldn't post about routes that are lesser known or not in guidebooks. I don't like beta anyway - the fun for me is exploring and finding surprises.

I know the over-crowding problem is especially acute for most people that work on weekdays. I am fortunate to not be constrained to hiking on weekends. I usually take August off from hiking because of the heat, bugs, and people, but this summer I went out on an August weekend because my companion could only go at that time. I might as well have been walking down the street as been on the Timberline Trail. At first I was dismayed at the people, then decided to smile at everyone and wish them a nice day, then became grateful to see so many people out enjoying the outdoors, then became even more grateful when I began viewing them as people that wouldn't be hiking on weekdays!

Another reason to move to Canada I guess...

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