JAVA, N.Y. — The pandemic introduced a lot of people to hiking. And with the recent warm weather, the trails are getting a lot of foot traffic.
But with the increase in people using the trails, comes the increase in litter around the areas. And that's why it's important that everyone do their part to leave no trace.
Spectrum News 1 headed to Chestnut Ridge Park to find out how to do that.
The founder of the Western New York Hiking Challenge says last year they had 800 registrations. This year, they have about 3,000.
There's a lot of things people can do to protect the trails and ensure a safe and clean space for all.
Jim Griffis hammers in green trail markers on paths behind the Beaver Meadow Audobon Center in Java. He's volunteered there for about six years. So far, he's installed around 540 of them, all of which he made himself in his basement.
"I put it 7 to 8 feet up in the air, just to reduce the vandalism," said Griffis. "When we first started putting them up, we had people come and pulling them down, which I don't get."
Volunteers like Griffis want people to know how to take care of the trails.
"This is a neat place, you can come and do things here. Walk, peace and quiet. During COVID, it was the one place you could come," said Griffis.
More and more people will be on the trails this summer.
Mike Radomski, the founder of the WNY Hiking Challange, says he sees the increase in traffic.
"The trails have been packed," said Radomski. "I see it in our hiking challenge. The numbers from last summer to this summer have tripled. It great to see the people who went outside during COVID are continuing on."
Because of this, he encourages people to leave no trace.
"If you have some trash, pack it in and pack it out. We suggest taking a garbage bag with you and leave it better than you found it," Radomski said.
"Stay on the trails. The marked trails are there for your protection safety and to protect the vegetation around the trails. So with higher traffic, you want to make sure you are on that durable surface," he added.
He also suggests that on muddy trails, don't go around the mud.
"A lot of people will try to avoid it by making those trails a little bigger. It only contributes more to erosion," Radomski said. "Get your boots wet and muddy and it will help the trails be more sustainable for the long term."
And if you are interested in the hiking challenge, which encourages people to hike 20 trails this summer, you can sign up online.