A blowout, most likely caused by animals and then people walking up and down, can be seen on the face of this dune. The park service placed signs at the entrance of these trails to discourage people from walking up them, thereby keeping the dune from eroding. I think people will simply ignore them.
If visitors would stay on those paths, erosion would be kept to a minimum. Instead, now they will walk around the signs, on the Marram grass, killing it, creating more bare spots leading to additional erosion.
I think naturalists in general are stepping over a dollar to pick up a penny, trying to stop the natural processes that would occur anyway - with or without humans. The wind and water erode far more sand than the people walking on these paths. They can't stop nature, so they seem to try to stop anything they can - at the expense of the visitor. A few thousand years ago, this area was under a larger and deeper lake. The lake drained quite a bit- not the fault of humans. A few thousand before that, this area was covered in ice. The ice melted - not the fault of humans. Could man have prevented those massive changes?
We can't - and shouldn't - stop everything perceived as radical change in the environment. Certainly we should stop misuse, and try to preserve the natural environment, by not intentionally destroying it. I'm all about saving the dunes -I've been involved in the replanting of Marram grass on Mt. Baldy to slow the erosion by wind. But, in the past several years, I've witnessed the collapse of the windward face of several dunes here between Mt. Baldy and Central Beach. This was caused by waves, not by people walking on the dunes. Grass, shrubs and trees were all in place until the waves undermined the dune, their roots couldn't fight the power of the water.
They might as well build a 6 foot tall, concrete seawall along the entire shore to keep the waves from washing away the dunes - that's the real problem. Since the lighthouse and pier were built at the mouth of Trail Creek, the beaches downwind have suffered. Let's solve that man-made problem first. There are several proposals to replenish the sand of this starving beach; perhaps if they're implemented, people will once again be able to walk up and down the dunes.
The earth isn't stagnant, it changes everyday. Certainly we should prevent people from damaging the environment, but it seems to be taken to extremes these days - the thinking is that people cause almost every environmental change, and people must stop it. The sooner we focus our energy toward preventing what we can prevent, and allowing what naturally occurs to occur, the better the environment will be.
Perhaps someone should have reinforced the banks of the Colorado River a few million years ago, to prevent all that erosion we now call the Grand Canyon. That huge hole in the ground could have been prevented if only people were there to stop it. And if only we could have kept people off of the mountains of Utah, a few million years ago, the mountains would still be here today. Instead, we're left with those stone buttes located in Arches National Park. Oh wait... people weren't around back then.......... then how did all of this happen?
Posted by Tom Gill at Monday, April 08, 2013