Here in Martin County, we have a strong love for nature. For many, it’s what drew us here to begin with. From the pristine forests that seem to transport us back in time, to the beautiful blue waters that we can enjoy year-round, it’s hard to imagine Martin County without these incredible natural resources. That’s why we have decided to take the next step to ensure their preservation by partnering with Leave No Trace!
Leave No Trace is an internationally recognized non-profit organization that aims to protect natural lands by educating people how to explore responsibly. Whether you’re a long-time resident or just visiting for the weekend, we all can play a part in helping to conserve our lands. Read below to learn about the 7 Leave No Trace principles and how you can implement them when you Explore Natural Martin.
Principle 1: Know Before You Go
- Research the area that you plan to visit so that you can adequately prepare and have both a safe and enjoyable adventure. This includes knowing the areas conditions, terrain, and any local rules and regulations.
- Check weather conditions before you go and prepare as needed. Florida’s weather can change from sunshine to rain in a matter of minutes, so remember to pack both your coral reef-safe sunscreen and your rain jacket!
- Travel safely by having a copy of your map, packing a first aid kit, and telling others about your travel plans.
- Whether you’re renting a kayak or a pontoon, make sure you know how to navigate the water safely and correctly – this includes how to interact with other boaters, following waterway markers, and knowing where you can (and can’t) go.
Principle 2: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Stick to designated trails to avoid damaging trailside vegetation and widening the trail, as well as to protect yourself from potentially hazardous conditions.
- Camp on designated campsites to limit your impacts on the surrounding environment.
- Avoid walking on the dunes as they are a very fragile ecosystem. Instead use boardwalks or marked paths to get to and from the beach.
- If traveling with pets, keep them on leash to ensure that they don’t run off the marked trails.
Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly
- Ensure everything you bring into a natural area gets brought back out. This includes snack wrappers, food waste, beach toys or chairs, or any other personal items. Be prepared to take your trash with you, as some locations don’t have cans available.
- Pick up your pet’s waste and properly dispose of it in a trash can. Pet waste can negatively impact other visitors’ experiences, as well as pollute water sources and carry diseases.
- Bring reusables to limit your amount of trash produced in an area.
- Research restroom availability in the area before you visit. If none are available, know how to follow guidelines for disposing of waste in nature.
- There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Do your part by picking up trash that you see along the beach to limit what goes into the ocean and to help animals that often accidentally ingest it.
Principle 4: Leave What You Find
- Take pictures instead of natural objects. Never take seashells, plants, rocks, or any other natural items that you find. Opt to take a photo instead. Not only are these items very important to the area’s ecosystem, but it allows others to enjoy them too.
- Take sea glass instead of seashells. Sea glass is not natural to the environment and therefore is not harmful to collect.
- Return the beach to how you found it by filling in sand holes, knocking down sandcastles, and taking all personal items, as they can be hazards to nesting sea turtles.
Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Florida is no stranger to droughts or wildfires. Make sure you create fires responsibly by using existing fire rings when available and fully extinguishing a fire before leaving.
- Follow all beach fire rules. In Martin County, beach fires are allowed with a permit on Stuart and Jensen Beach from 5pm-11pm only during November-February. You can find more information about beach fires and how to get a permit here.
Principle 6: Respect Wildlife
- Observe all wildlife from a distance as to not scare them and to keep yourself safe. If you want a closer look, consider bringing binoculars or a camera with zoom.
- Keep your pets on a leash so they do not run at and disturb wildlife.
- To protect our endangered sea turtles, make sure you keep beaches dark, flat, and clean. This means not going on the beach with flashlights, filling in beach holes and removing sandcastles, and removing all trash and personal items.
- Our shores are home to many beach-nesting birds. Help protect them by respecting posted areas that say the birds are present and keep your dog leashed so they don’t disturb them.
- To protect marine mammals such as manatees and dolphins, make sure you stay at least 50 yards away if you spot one, proceed slowly and carefully, and follow posted speed zone signs.
- Report any injured or dead animals to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation.
Principle 7: Be Considerate of Others
- Be respectful of others who are enjoying the outdoors to create a positive experience for everyone.
- Be mindful of you or your groups noise levels and remember that sound travels better over the water.
- Follow yielding rules on multi-use trails. As a hiker, you have the right of way over bikers, but must yield to horses. As a biker, you must yield to both horses and hikers. If on horseback, you have the right of way over hikers and bikers.