Raising youth’s consciousness of the need to care for our environment — and of how vital it is to not litter — is why volunteers from Back Country Horsemen of Washington’s Peninsula Chapter offer an informational booth, along with horses, pack mules and its ambassador at the annual Dungeness River Festival in Sequim. Here, Tony Sample helps youths give apple slices to Murphy the Donkey, as Del Sage, Judy Dupree and Kat Sample look on. (Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News)

Raising youth’s consciousness of the need to care for our environment — and of how vital it is to not litter — is why volunteers from Back Country Horsemen of Washington’s Peninsula Chapter offer an informational booth, along with horses, pack mules and its ambassador at the annual Dungeness River Festival in Sequim. Here, Tony Sample helps youths give apple slices to Murphy the Donkey, as Del Sage, Judy Dupree and Kat Sample look on. (Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News)

HORSEPLAY: Back Country Horsemen do part to teach kids

IT WAS A beautiful day in Sequim when the 21st Dungeness River Festival took place.

Hosted by the Dungeness River Audubon Society on Sept. 27, its message remains the same, “Take care of our Dungeness River and its surrounding habitat.”

Why? Because clean water is vital to all life forms.

“This year’s been a wonderful year at the Audubon’s Dungeness River festival,” said Linda Morin of Back Country Horsemen of Washington’s Peninsula Chapter.

She was the event coordinator at 2151 W. Hendrickson Road.

“We’ve had more parents, kids and teachers than we had in the last two years. It’s been very well attended with the Forest Service, DNR, Washington Trails Association and the county all working together to help keep trails open to the public and safe for all users: hikers, cyclists and equestrians.”

Public awareness

Yes, raising public awareness on the need to maintain the health of the river, starting with our elementary school-age youths, is the reason why so many local volunteers and organizations, such as Back Country Horsemen, Washington Trails Association, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park and the Department of Natural Resources, take part in the festival every year.

Imagine what our lives would be like living here on the Peninsula if our rivers were full of litter and pollution.

Is there anyone living here who doesn’t appreciate our pristine environment?

Well, guess what? In our day and age, clean water doesn’t happen just by chance.

Thus, we all need to do our part to keep it clean, beginning with something as simple as picking up and packing out any garbage we may have, and, hopefully, any litter someone else might have missed.

“Give a hoot don’t pollute,” most of us older folks recall Woodsy Owl and his message put out by the U.S. Forest Service starting in the 1970s.

It really raised my social consciousness as a youth on the need to take care of our precious Earth.

Woodsy’s target audience is children 5 to 8 years old, and he was designed to be seen as a mentor to children, providing them with information and advice to help them appreciate nature.

His current motto is “Lend a hand — care for the land!”

The other event that raised my social consciousness was the television public service announcement that came out on Earth Day in 1971 with Iron Eyes Cody shedding a tear at the sight of a landscape befouled by garbage, smoke bellowing from power and manufacturing plants and other pollutants, along with the tagline, “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

As a youth growing up in Long Beach, Calif., I recall days the air was so thick with smog my eyes would burn; smog warnings were frequent, and during school that meant we were not allowed to go outside and play during recess because breathing the air was harmful to our health.

But that all started to change in 1966 when the California Air Resources Board, or clean air agency, came into effect with the first tailpipe emission standards.

I think a huge change in the air was more noticeable starting in 1976 when California began its smog check program — and I can attest to it making a huge change for the better in the air we breathed.

Way back in the 1960s, the Back Country Horsemen of American started the “Leave No Trace” program nationwide.

Its seven principles can be applied by all who enjoy the trails.

They are:

1. Plan and prepare your excursion into the back country.

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

3. Dispose of waste properly.

4. Leave what you find.

5. Minimize campfire impacts.

6. Respect wildlife.

7. Be considerate of other visitors.

Easy enough, right? And yet, many folks seem to need constant reminders, especially on leaving no litter.

The take-away message

The take-away message here is we can all do our part, wherever we are — even if it’s picking up litter in our local parking lot — to be good land stewards. And don’t get me started on those who illegally dump household garbage and items on both public and private lands!

Or those hunters who dump their deer and other carcasses (in black plastic bags, no less) on said lands!

Most are mindful

Thankfully, most of us are mindful of picking up after ourselves while enjoying our beautiful Olympic Peninsula.

Speaking of enjoying, last weekend was the Peninsula chapter’s annual Salt Creek ride where Linda said there was an equal turnout between the Peninsula and Mount Olympus chapters.

“It was a good time seeing old friends and meeting new ones,” she said. “The sun came out and the views were amazing. We’re looking forward to more rides together next year!”

________

Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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