Have you ever wondered why there are paths in parks? If you have, you are right to wonder. You should stay on these trails because of these reasons: to prevent erosion in nature; to prevent the trampling of wildlife; and to prevent you from finding yourself in stinging nettle or poison ivy.
When you are walking off trail you are trampling plants and compacting the soil. This makes it difficult for plants to grow and the roots that previously held the soil in place can no longer take that role. The soil drifts away. This causes less healthy soil for plants to grow in.
Poison Ivy/ Stinging Nettle:
Poison ivy and stinging nettle live on the edges of forests. You may think of these plants as pests but really they are protectors of the forest. So if you get a rash you should think of it as a learning moment to give nature space.
Every time you leave the path you are walking on plants which may harm them and could kill them. These plants could be the food sources for many insects or animals, which means that you are destroying part of their food source. If a lot of the animals decide to move somewhere else it will disrupt the balance of the ecosystem.
Even in the snow and leaves when it is hard to stay on the path, you should do your best. The plants may look dead on the side of the path but really they are just dormant and will continue growing in the spring. Please, for all these reasons keep on the trails and try not to stray from them.
Nyla, Oliver and Tommy are members of the High Park Rangers youth volunteer stewardship program