“Leave only footprints, take away memories” was the sign that hung above the doorway of the mess hall at Hidden Valley Camp Scout Reservation. I remember it well because one time, hopped up chocolate covered espresso beans at age 12, I flung the doors open the mess hall and the sign fell on my head. Needless to say, I wouldn’t forget it.

Anecdotes aside, this statement was drilled into me at a very young age. Having grown up with my father who is an avid woodsman and hunter, I learned early on that to enjoy nature you must be vigilant to protect it and preserve it. This idea was further solidified when I joined Cub Scouts and eventually Boy Scouts. For me, the forest was always a place of magic. The woods could be a place where I could let my imagination run wild and be tremendously inspired. I read a lot of R.A. Salvatore, J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock and played Dungeons and Dragons religiously when I was young. I would play in the woods and escape to those fantasy worlds. As I got older, I began to appreciate nature for nature’s sake. Way finding and orienteering was fun. Fishing was both relaxing and educational. Hunting is fun and peaceful when you fully respect your prey and the environment.

It always annoyed me when I was young pretending to be Gandalf in the woods when I run into a trash pile or random tire or broken down shed full paint cans and crap coming out of the seams. That crap doesn’t belong in my fantasy world. As I got older, the crap left along the banks of creeks and streams where I would go fishing disgusted me. I didn’t want to have to step over this stuff to go fishing. I was infuriated when I would go hunting and find cigarette butts and hot hands packs lying about the deep woods as I tracked deer.

I did a lot of cleanups when I was in scouting, I’d make it a mission to come back with the most full trash bags. I probably pissed off more irate armed hunters when I would come across them in the woods and see they have strewn a trail of trash from their vehicle threw the woods and report them to the game commission. I’ve faced my fears of dark, murky water in order to clean out trash from creeks. Why would you want to spoil a resource that so many enjoy and means so much? Something has to be done. Thankfully, I am not the only one with who feel this way. As a designer, there are a number of things I can do to help raise awareness or inform the public but I was lucky enough to work on a recent project that is aimed to keep our trash out of the forests, streams and mountains. A new client project that I worked on at PPO&S was a joint effort with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The initiative is Illegal Dump Free PA.

Illegal Dump Free PAIllegal Dump Free PA aims to stop illegal trash dumps and littering in Pennsylvania through proactive measures. They premise is simple, a municipality or borough can apply for a grant to install wireless camouflaged trail cams in key areas to capture video data of illegal dumping practices. This data in turn can be used as evidence in court to get convictions.

The project finally coalesced and took the form of a co-branded microsite. Using WordPress as my content management system of choice, I worked on designing a building a functional, easy to navigate and use site that gave the user a clear direction on how to apply for a camera grant and find relevant resources and information that informed users on how illegal dumping is an anathema to the state and what laws and agencies are in place to combat this societal issue. We launched this site on Friday, March 6, 2015 and already we have grant applications being submitted online for the trail cameras.

Rarely do I get to work on projects that are so meaningful to me personally. As a designer, your work should motivate action in its audience. I feel like this is one of those special projects where the alignment of my skills can help keep something precious to me protected. It’s extremely self-satisfying, of course, but for conservation minded individuals who work to keep our forests, waterways, plains, and mountains clean and free of trash…this a good step in prevention.

Photo Credit: Daniel Beilinson

March 12, 2015

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