Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
THE PLACE OF THE NATURE TRAIL IN THE PARK EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM
By George L. Collins.
It occurs to me that experience has already showed that the nature trail is a most useful medium in creating an attitude of attention, interest and respect toward one’s surroundings everywhere.
The basic principle of nature trails seems to be informality — that is, one should be introduced to natural things easily, and in the absolute environment of those natural things. The trails should be relatively short and carefully arranged to show convincingly what is possible of the most important facts pertinent to natural history that any region tapped by such a trail presents.
The trails should be so arranged that the service of any persons functioning as guides is unnecessary. The idea here being to relieve the visitor of any restraint in personal observation or thought, which might be imposed by association with a guide or counsellor. A minimum of descriptive matter, in the form of signs as little repellent to the eye as it is possible to make them, shall give a key to the story of all important objects rather than to have the usual guide to do most of the observing and calling of attention.
The place of nature trails in educational work as carried on by a national park is perhaps only to be shown, like anything else, by results. It is possible that conditions favor the introduction of nature trails in some national parks more than in others, at least it appears that in some parks where no museums are established, and educational work is not progressing swiftly, that the comparatively inexpensive procedure of arranging nature trails would be a very good first stop. Generally speaking, however, we might say that nature trails are to our educational work what a primary reader is to the educational foundation of the young academic student; it serves as a starter toward more profound understanding and appreciation, and possibly does this fundamental work more happily than would a formal array of exhibits in a museum.
Apparently the first nature trails were designed especially for young people, yet it is true that anything having as much human interest appeal as a nature trail, will attract attention from young and old alike, so the possibilities in answering needs of all classes of park visitors are not to be overlooked.