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Todd C. Bradley
Professor Marian Gonsior
WRT3100

Can Rocks Be an Endangered Species?


Rock hopping along the uneven scrabble of the beach, my approach is filled with
building anticipation. The moment of getting there, seems an agonizingly slow process. The
plans to visit here have been formed since the morning, and it is now afternoon. Any delays or
imposition on the time getting here or spent here are felt as a squandering of time, that is already
short enough.
Reaching my favorite rock, which is the size and shape of table. Its surface is as flat as
natures stonesmiths could quarry, but irregular and rough as to an adze hewed log. This rock is
one of thousands along the stretch of beach. It is as non-descript in its setting as miles of
concrete might be on a long passage of interstate highway. Upon a closer look with a discerning
eye, it can be seen that it sits at a positon and elevation unlike the others. The other rocks
surrounding it act in concert to provide shelter, privacy and a comfortable spot in which to sit,
recline or lay down and gather the sun in the fashion of our cold blooded ancestral species or a
modern day sun worshipper.
My rock could have been here for a millennia or a decade. Perhaps brought to the shore
by glaciers or the more present actions of ice and waves. Its origin and arrival on the scene are
unimportant to me. For now, I simply know it is there.
This place and the seclusion it provides, is unknown to the many who walk by within 50
yards or so. Though it is known by a few explorers or bushwhackers, who take the time to get off

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the beaten path and thoroughly investigate the nooks and crannies of the shoreline. The
beginnings of a worn path, of the comings and goings of others, has appeared on the ground
leading to this place. Fortunately there are others like myself, which make the effort to keep this
place concealed. Telltale signs of rearranged brush and grasses, to hide a passing or footprints are
evident. While this may contribute to the concealment and secrecy of my place, the beginnings of
this small unmaintained trail path, could in time cause damage to the area. An article in Journal
of Soil and Water Conservation reveals the possible consequences of these unauthorized side
trails, stating, The extensive distribution of trails and their degrading condition in many natural
areas can have pervasive environmental effects through alteration of natural drainage patterns,
erosion and deposition of soil, introduction of exotic vegetation, and increasing human-wildlife
conflicts. Degraded trails also threaten the quality of visitor experiences by making travel
difficult or unsafe, or by diminishing visitors' perceptions of naturalness. (Leunig)
Incredibly, this place is within yards of a paved and maintained foot path or trailway for
walkers and bikes. The maintained path itself, extends for nearly 27 miles, connecting 3 different
resort towns located on this bay. In the peak summer season, this trail is used by thousands of
people. The growing crowds and their impact on the use of natural areas is reflected in an article
from Environmental Law, and its findings on crowded natural areas. In Colorado, for example,
wilderness areas near the Denver metropolitan Front Range are fast becoming swamped with
urbanites and suburbanites who visit these otherwise pristine areas during summer weekends and
holidays. It is not uncommon for Colorado peaks and trails in wilderness areas to resemble
Central Park in New York City. Hikers, dogs, and infants in baby carriers fill the wilderness with
conversation, barking, and crying. (Laitos) While my city is not the size of Denver or a
wilderness, the urbanites and suburbanites flock to this region and its natural areas in the summer

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season as well. This trend still occurs on an exponential level, for the size of my community.
Regardless of size, the crowds keep coming. This multitude seems only focused on the
destination in front of them, or the time of arrival at their next destination, waypoint or civil
engineered rest stop; or scenic overlook, in which to take a photograph. For many the experience
is far too rushed and unexamined. It seems to become only a route remembered by the GPS
function on a cell phone, accompanied by a picture and narrative posted in the social media. If
one considers the phrase, its the journey that counts, not the destination, subsequently many
have missed the message.
While access to our natural areas, and the ability to experience and view the panorama of
our surroundings, is a worthwhile pursuit. The establishment of a paved asphalt trail, is perhaps
overkill. This trailway at times becomes a thoroughfare or pedestrian highway during busy
seasonal tourism months. Its function seems to be only to move masses of people from point A to
point B, with a scenic view to one side, a bench-pavilion or gazebo on the other; with resorts,
restaurants and all that a tourist based economy can offer, all along the way.
It is ironic, perhaps tragically ironic, that this place exists within the sight and easy
walking distance of this trailway. The need for solitude, or sanctuary can be found nearly
anywhere. We must merely have the vision to look for it and then see it for what it is. How we
make it ours, or covet and possess it, is up to the individual.
Possibly many of us have found a place for ourselves that uniquely exists, just for the
individual self. Regardless of its location, type, structure or surroundings. These opportunities of
discovery may be rare and diminishing. Expanding populations, urban sprawl and civil planning
all add to reduced opportunities for solitude and connection with nature.

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Is solitude or connecting with our natural surroundings endangered? Only to the extent,
of how far we need to travel, or the time necessary to do so. Perhaps the convenience or
proximity, is the endangered commodity.
Having discovered my own place of rest, solace and solitude, within easy reach of my
time and travel, there is a desire to protect it and keep it secret. Quite frequently a nagging set of
questions invades the corners of the mind. Will this place be here this year? Will it be rearranged
or washed away by the immutable power of weather, water and shifting lake ice? These
questions or consequences are easily acceptable and tolerated, as they are at the whim of natural
forces. The question of greatest impact and objection being, will somebody else find this place
and ruin it? It is a predominate fear, as throngs of people pass by it unknowingly. Someone will
notice at some point, seeing the barely distinguishable beginnings of what looks like a game trail,
and venture down it. It is inevitable that this secret will be discovered, and then this place could
be possibly overrun, despoiled and corrupted into another waypoint or overlook for the
seemingly unending line of trailway walkers.
In any of these questions or fears, there is no answer for now. It is possible that nature
and the component of our local tourist economy and presence can coexist. With relatively
minimal impact. Only the passage of time will reveal further damages or conflicts. As a people,
we all benefit from our interaction with natural areas. Conflicts may exist and occur, although
their management or solutions are a precarious balance between meeting the needs of both
society and the natural world. It is seen in some studies, that a hands off approach can be a useful
perspective in maintaining this balance. This is a long-term societal value and benefit that is at
the heart of the direct interplay between people and their environment. The hands-off approach is
a conscious choice to put restraint first, to ensure that people are not in charge, in control, or

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dominating, to foster awareness of and appreciation for our interconnectedness with what is
typically called nature. (Cole 94-95)
The desire to protect this place and to keep it secret, only heighten the value of it. It is a
value and appreciation known only to any individual, who has found a place or their moments in
it, which are uniquely their own treasures to be made and possessed. It is in the very nature of
treasures, that we wish to secret them away, hide and protect them. Although in the end, it is also
our nature to discover and reveal them.

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Works Cited
Cole, David N., and Yung, Laurie. Beyond Naturalness; Rethinking Park and Wilderness
Stewardship in an Era of Rapid Change. Washington DC: Island Press, 2010.
Laitos, Jan G., and Rachael B. Reiss. "Recreation wars for our natural resources." Environmental
Law (2004): 1091. Type of Medium (e.g. Print).
Leunig, Yu-Fai and Jeffery L. Marion. "Trail degradation as influenced by environmental factors:
a state-of-the-knowledge review." Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (1996): 130
Print.