- Low Impact Skills for
People can avoid or minimize physical impacts during their activities
on coastal dunes. The basic strategy is to stay away from vulnerable
areas and to minimize your impacts if you must travel in vulnerable
Where trails exist:
- If an established
trail is available, follow it rather than striking out on your
own. By following the trail, you are concentrating human impacts
in one area rather than spreading impacts over the dunes.
- Keep to the middle
of trails you walk on, even when you go uphill. On dunes, it is
often easier to walk along the solid edges of the trail rather
than loose sand in the center of the path, but you will widen
the trail if you walk along the edges.
People walking near an eroding scarp on North Beach
Park parabolic dune (Ottawa County, MI) accelerate undercutting and
erosion in this area. There is a pathway through the trees on the
ridge that allows visitors to have much less impact on the dune. (June
Where trails do not exist:
- If you have a choice
between walking on bare sand and walking through vegetation, choose
the bare sand. When you damage vegetation, you are increasing
dune vulnerability to erosion.
- If you have a choice
between slopes to walk on, choose the slope with the lowest angle.
On steep slopes, you are likely to push more sand downslope and
put more stress on vegetation than on gentle slopes.
- If you cannot avoid
a steep uphill slope, walk diagonally across the slope rather
than directly uphill. You will put less stress on vegetation and
soils this way.
- Avoid walking straight
up the windward slope of a dune and across the crest. Trails that
are aligned with the wind can be widened and deepened by wind
to form a blowout across the dune.
- In pristine areas,
disperse groups so that you do not create a new trail across the
area. It would be wiser for groups of people to avoid steep slopes
altogether, because you will have an impact.
- Avoid places where
impacts are just beginning. Informal trails, patches of bare ground
on windward slopes, and the margins of blowouts are vulnerable
principles on the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics website
will give you more information on how to produce low impacts in
wilderness areas, including advice on camping, going to the bathroom,
washing dishes, wildlife, etc.