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For Release: Saturday, July 18, 2020

DEC Reminds Outdoor Adventurers To Play Smart * Play Safe * Play Local While Keeping Natural Areas Litter-Free

DEC Encourages New Yorkers to Recreate Responsibly during State's Ongoing Response to COVID-19

In response to community concerns about increasing amounts of litter left behind by visitors to New York's natural areas, State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today reminded outdoor adventurers to follow the principles of Leave No Trace. DEC is receiving increased reports of visitors leaving trash behind after trips to State lands, waters, and facilities, particularly in the Adirondack Park and the Catskills.

"During the State's ongoing response to COVID-19, New Yorkers are desperate for a chance to get outside, change up the scenery, and get a breath of fresh air. It's great that so many people are enjoying the outdoors this summer, but it's disheartening to see litter and garbage left behind," Commissioner Seggos said. "It's a simple fix. Whatever you bring in with you should leave with you as well. Play Smart * Play Safe * Play Local this summer and follow the principles of Leave No Trace."

Litter is both an eyesore and poses a danger to local wildlife and delicate ecosystems. DEC is encouraging visitors to the State's natural areas and facilities to keep New York's environment clean by properly disposing of waste. Follow these tips to Leave No Trace:

  1. Carry out what you carry in. Don't leave trash, food, gear, or any other personal belongings behind.
  2. Trash your trash. Use designated receptacles when available or carry your trash in a small bag so you can throw it out at home. Never put trash in outhouses or porta-potties.
  3. Use designated bathroom facilities when available. If traveling, use the rest areas closest to your destination before you arrive. Learn how to dig a cat hole (leaves DEC website) and properly dispose of your human waste for the times when nature calls and a bathroom is not available.
  4. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, take extra precautions when picking up trash you find on the trail. Wear gloves and make sure to hand sanitize when you are done.

Earlier this summer, DEC and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) launched the PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL Campaign to encourage all New Yorkers to recreate safely, responsibly, and locally this summer and to always treat fellow outdoor adventurers with respect. The campaign invites people to take the PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL pledge, and promise to use common sense to protect themselves and others when enjoying the outdoors. During the State's ongoing response to COVID-19, New Yorkers across the state want and need to get outside for a nature break, which is good for physical and mental health. The campaign and pledge include common sense guidelines for smart and safe recreation, including incorporating social distancing and wearing a face mask, planning trips ahead, choosing a destination close to home because public restrooms and restaurants may not be open, and visiting at off hours. The agencies are also encouraging New Yorkers to take the pledge and use the hashtag #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal when sharing their outdoor adventures on social media.

Take the Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely and Responsibly

  1. I pledge to respect the rules and do my part to keep parks, beaches, trails, boat launches, and other public spaces safe for everyone.
  2. I will stay local and close to home.
  3. I will maintain a safe distance from others outside of my household.
  4. I will wear a mask when I cannot maintain social distancing.
  5. accept that this summer, I may have to adjust how I enjoy the outdoors to help keep myself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing my plans to visit a public space.
  6. I will be respectful of others by letting them pass by me if needed on a trail and keeping my blanket ten feet apart from others on the beach.
  7. I will move quickly through shared areas like parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas to avoid crowding.
  8. If I'm not feeling well, I will stay home.

New Yorkers are strongly advised to plan their outdoor adventures ahead of time and choose alternate destinations if their first choice is closed or crowded. Check parks.ny.gov and 511 for park capacity closure alerts and visit the DECinfo locator to find the nearest DEC-managed lands. DEC and State Parks websites also feature guidelines to help New Yorkers safely engage in outdoor activities including swimming, hunting, fishing, boating, golf, and hiking. Indoor spaces and restrooms at State Parks and DEC public facilities may remain closed out of an abundance of caution to prevent community spread of COVID-19, so New Yorkers are encouraged to stay local, within their region, and use the #RecreateLocal hashtag on social media.

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