Public parks are a great place to take your family, friends, and pets. However, you may be surprised to learn that when you visit a park, you can potentially harm the environment in ways that seem benign. Here are a few things you can do to prevent water contamination at public parks.
Leave No Trace
Leave no trace – that means to leave behind everything you don’t carry in, including garbage, food waste, and anything else that could cause pollution. Stay on paths and trails. This will reduce the impact of erosion on the park’s natural habitats and keep you safe from injuries.
Also, be aware of wildlife safety precautions in public parks. These include keeping your distance from wild animals, not feeding them or trying to pet them (even if you think they’re cute), never giving pets access to an open water source (especially ponds with ducks or geese), and avoiding areas where feral cats live and keeping children under age 10 away from any wildlife areas.
Dispose of Trash Properly
Make sure to dispose of your trash properly. Do not throw trash on the ground, into water sources, or into a compost pile. Don’t dispose of it in a storm drain, either. If you think your garbage can wait until you get home, take it with you! There’s no reason for anyone to have to see what was in there.
Try not to be one of those jerks who tosses their trash out their car window. Someone else has to deal with that mess when they drive through an area where someone had decided it was okay to toss their junk out the window at 70 miles per hour. Be conscientious and take responsibility for yourself and those around you by disposing of properly – this will help keep our parks clean (and save us all from having unnecessary stress).
Get Involved and Speak Up
You can also try to get involved in the community. Talk to your local government officials, and ask them what they’re doing about water contamination and how it affects them. If they don’t seem receptive or don’t know what’s going on, find someone else who does. You can also talk to park managers at public parks throughout your city and state. They often know more about the situation than you might think!
You can even team up with other concerned citizens and file lawsuits against businesses that are polluting the park water. Take inspiration from the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit organized by the lawyers at TorHoerman Law, LLC. What started as just another lawsuit is now inching towards Senate approval. So, it is surely something worth looking into and taking inspiration from.
Avoid Biking or Walking Through Mud Puddles or Over a Field Near a Water Body
Avoid biking or walking through mud puddles or over a field near a water body. Even if it’s not raining, water from the ground can seep into your shoes and other equipment, which can then transmit contaminants to local waterways.
If you’re going for a walk in the park, skip over those muddy areas and avoid fields near streams. In wet weather, avoid these areas altogether. And even when it’s dry outside, stay out of fields that border bodies of water—they may have been flooded previously and could still be contaminated with bacteria and other pollutants.
Be Careful When Applying Sunscreen or Bug Spray
This can be difficult, but it’s important to do your best. Apply sunscreen to hard-to-reach places like your back and the tops of your feet, and take a minute to put on bug spray before you arrive at the park. If you’re taking a dip in the water, avoid putting sunscreen or bug spray directly on any part of your body that will be submerged in the water because that could contaminate it.
If you’re bringing along pets, remember that they may not understand why they can’t swim in the lake. To keep them safe from contaminated water and prevent them from spreading bacteria themselves while they’re swimming around, make sure all creams or sprays are applied carefully so as not to get them into lakes and ponds where people swim—and if any do get onto their fur or skin, wash it off immediately with soap and warm water.
Exercise Care with Pets
If you have pets, be sure to exercise care when cleaning up after them. Pet waste can contain harmful chemicals and bacteria that can cause serious health problems. As such, it should never be flushed down the toilet or thrown into a storm drain.
If your pet has fleas or ticks, avoid using pesticides near water sources that could contaminate them with harmful chemicals (such as flea collars). And if your pet is sick with an illness such as distemper or parvovirus, don’t allow them to go on public trails nearby until they are fully recovered from their illness if possible.
We all have a role to play in protecting the environment. Let’s leave the world better than we found it.