KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — From the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to dozens of state parks and recreation areas across the state, there's no better place to celebrate World Environment Day than in East Tennessee.
There are easy things we should do every day to preserve these landscapes and keep Tennessee beautiful for generations to come.
Here are some ways to recreate responsibly this summer.
Take only photos and memories: On a hike in the Smokies, you might come across some unique items, like cool stones or feathers, but leave them in the park. This especially applies to wildflowers and other flora and fauna. Do not pick them and leave them alone so other visitors also have the chance to enjoy them.
Don't alter nature: Changing or altering any part of the natural world can disrupt habitats and the animals that live there. One example is the Hellbender Salamander. They live around the rocks and rivers in streams. Stacking or moving the rocks threatens their homes.
Leave no trace: Always remember to clean up your trash and anything else you bring into the park with you. Make it look like you weren't even there! Even better, if you see trash that others left behind, grab that too. Sometimes things like wrappers or containers fall out of pockets or backpacks on accident, so if you see someone on the trail, just pick it up. It is helpful to bring a small bag on your hike with you for this.
Pick up after your pets: Make sure you know the rules of the park you are visiting. Not all areas of the Smokies allow pets, but regardless of where you are, bring a bag so you can help your pet "leave no trace."
Stay on the trail: Trail signs are there for a reason. Rangers and park guides tell visitors to stay on the trails so they don't trample wildflowers or vegetation. It is important to protect the park's natural habitats so the animals and organisms that live there can continue to thrive.
Don't feed the animals: East Tennessee is home to lots of wildlife like elk, deer and black bears. While it is exciting to catch a glimpse of these creatures in the wild, you should never attempt to get close to them or feed them. This can have deadly consequences for both you and the animal, specifically when it comes to bears. You can read more about being Bearwise here.