Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
MAINTENANCE AND USE OF NATURE TRAILS
By C. Frank Brockman
The nature trail may develop into one of the major features of the educational system for it first serves as a sort of index of what may be found in the region (as the location should obviously be charted through the best areas); secondly, it will act as an incentive to get people out on the trails and see things for themselves; third, it is a means of popular instruction as all features of interest are labeled; fourth, it has a great appeal for people who for one reason or another cannot hike for long distances; and fifth, it will implant a love for the outdoors and a greater appreciation of nature in transient visitors – those who spend but a short time in the park.
One of the principal features of the nature trail is timeliness. It should tie in directly with the museum but, unlike that activity, which is more immobile than the nature trail, should, if it is utilized to the utmost, be constantly changing with the trend of natural conditions. During the season it must be constantly patrolled and gone over at regular intervals so that all labels, etc., can be kept up to date — new things brought to the attention of the visitor and obsolete things being erased from his view. For instance, in the case of a fern; when the fronds begin to unfold this should be pointed out and explained and when they reach a later stage of development this requires a totally different type of story, while when completely mature a third label is necessary. This same principle applies to flora, fauna, and all features except possibly geologic exhibits which are not subject to rapid change.
Of course the primary step in the development of this activity is to have a trail — one that can be easily followed and is easily discernable. If this is done and a suitable sign is artistically placed at the start it has been my experience that very little difficulty will be had in getting the people to use it. Each trail should, if possible, have some feature of major popular interest that will serve to head line or attract the public along the initial stages — then the other points of natural history should be presented in a sufficiently interesting manner to hold this created interest.