Bird Flying Near Paddle Boarders

Making plans for an amazing summer? As a waterside community, residents of Virginia Beach and its surrounding cities are gearing up to get out and enjoy some boating, fishing, surfing, kayaking, crabbing, and more. It’s the perfect time of year to be on the water, but that also makes it the most important time of year to practice responsible recreation.

As you journey out into our ocean, rivers, lakes, and state and national park areas, here are ways you can help protect the natural areas you visit or through which you travel.

Leave It Better Than You Found It

Leave any natural environment you travel to in a healthier state than when you found it. Avoid dumping or losing trash, food, gear, etc. by securing your items so they can’t be dropped. If you find garbage in a waterway or on land, please remove it if it is easily accessible! You could help save an animal from ingesting or getting caught in it.

Stay On The Beaten Path

While wandering is an adventure, it’s best to use designated paths, boat ramps or launch points when heading out onto the water to avoid trampling through wild plants and habitats. Follow trail signage that labels the best path to follow. It’s also advisable to travel in small groups to leave minimal impacts on the environment.

Walkway Through Marsh

Follow Wake Rules

If you see a “No Wake” sign in the water, slow down! Engine-powered boats that are going too fast will leave a wake, or set of waves, behind them. A wake that is too big and strong can damage shorelines and shoreline plants, so help avoid erosion by reducing speed where indicated.

Respect Wildlife

Always observe wild animals from a safe and generous distance. Never harass them, do not offer food, and keep your pets a safe distance away so they cannot interact with wildlife. Not only can pets harm wild animals, but they can also be harmed in return, and diseases may spread through close interaction.

Consider This When You Fish

Take some time to learn the difference between native and non-native species of fish. If you’re fishing in a national park, you can research species through the National Park Service’s website. To avoid introducing non-native species into an ecosystem, be sure to avoid using or dumping live bait. Keep more of the non-native fish you catch (if safe to consume) and practice catch-and-release fishing with native species to help keep their populations healthy! Here’s a helpful guide on catch-and-release.

Wherever you go, always remember to research and follow park regulations to help protect the environment and local wildlife. Preserving these areas allows our communities to continue enjoying nature for years to come!

Sources: National Park Service (1, 2) and the USDA.

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