Care For Our Parks

Protect Our Parks

Each of us can play a vital role in protecting the parks for everyone to enjoy as well as for the species that depend on them.

Know and Follow the Rules

Abiding by the Park Commission Rules & Regulations is one of the best ways you can help us protect the parks and ensure that they can be enjoyed by all. Please familiarize yourself with the rules before your next park experience.

Dispose of Waste Properly

If you pack it in, pack it back out and dispose of it properly. Leaving behind food, wrappers, empty bottles, fishing line, dog waste bags and other forms of trash is unsightly as well as dangerous for wildlife. Wildlife can become attracted to inappropriate food sources and become a nuisance as they associate areas with handouts. Wildlife that ingest inappropriatefoods can become very ill.

Packing out your dog’s waste is essential in maintaining the health of our natural areas. Dog waste adds excess nutrients to the environment degrading water bodies and creating conditions that allow for invasive plant invasions. It is easy to brush off this impact when you only consider your individual dog(s), but it is important to consider the cumulative impact of everyone’s dog on these spaces; an estimate of over 10 million tons of waste are produced by 83 million dogs across the U.S. each year. Bag your dog’s waste and take the bag out with you! Bagged dog waste has become one of the most common forms of litter; it is unsightly and unfair to others looking to enjoy these areas.

Leave What You Find

With such an abundance of treasures in the natural world, it can be tempting to take home a souvenir. But doing so can have drastic impacts on natural habitats and the species that depend on them.

Wild plant and mushroom foraging is a popular trend, but with such a high number of annual visitors, this activity can threaten native plant populations and remove critical food sources for wildlife. Overharvesting can result in plant populations that can’t reproduce themselves, eventually resulting in their disappearance from an area.

Picking flowers may seem harmless, but it can negatively impact pollinators and other animals that depend on that species as a part of its life cycle and reduce the plant’s ability to reproduce.

Collecting insects and animals themselves is not only extremely detrimental to these species that generally cannot survive outside of their natural habitats, it is against state laws. And all hunting is strictly prohibited on park property except by special permit through the Deer Management Program.

Take a photograph instead, it will last longer anyway!

Don’t Alter the Environment

The parks provide critical habitat to a wide variety of plants, animals, insects and other life forms. Please help us protect these areas by leaving them as you find them.

Building cairns, piles of rocks used to mark trails and other features, has become increasingly popular in recent years but they can be incredibly destructive. Rocks provide important habitat for our diverse amphibian and insect populations. Removing them in this manner can leave these creatures vulnerable to predation. Rocks also hold the earth in place and removing them can create unnecessary erosion.

Damming waterways and removing rocks can have drastic effects on stream ecology by stirring up silt and mud, blocking the movement of fish and invertebrates, warming water and reducing oxygen levels needed for aquatic life. Dams also alter stream flow often resulting in the erosion of streambanks.

Creating unsanctioned trails can impact sensitive habitats and threatened/endangered species. Such trails often result in extensive erosion issues, compounding negative impacts to surrounding areas. Park Commission staff take great care to factor in all of these issues when designing trails. If you want to help us in our efforts, please visit our volunteer page!

Keep Your Dogs on Leash

Not only is this a rule, keeping your dog on leash is a critical action you can take to protect the parks you enjoy. Leashing your dog helps to ensure you can pack out its waste. Dog waste carries viruses, bacteria and parasites which can be passed on to wild animals so packing it back out with you is very important.

Even the most well-behaved dogs can behave unpredictably when off a leash, jeopardizing the well-being of the wildlife that call these areas home. Some dogs will chase wildlife, causing unnecessary stress to the animal and potential dislocatingit from its territory. This can be particularly detrimental when species are caring for their young, and in the case of ground nesting species, a roaming dog may directly trample and destroy a nest. In the worst cases, dogs may maim or kill wildlife outright, giving in to what is a very natural instinct for canine species.

Leashes help ensure your dog cannot wander off into a protected or sensitive area. Our trails are designed in a way to protect these important resources: trampling, scratching, digging, and otherwise disturbing soil can disrupt and destroy these habitats. Dogs can also inadvertently pick up seeds from invasive species and spread them to these off-trail areas helping them spread even further in the parks.

Leashing your dog also helps ensure it does not interfere with the Park Commission’s Deer Management Program. Hunters in this program spend a great deal of time finding areas away from the highly trafficked trails to increase the likelihood of harvesting deer to help the Park Commission meet its goals. Allowing dogs to wander off trail during the hunting season can seriously disrupt these efforts by changing deer movement patterns and can waste weeks of one’s effort in the program.

Keeping your dog on leash is also better for the dog! A number of plant and wildlife species that can cause your dog serious harm call the parks home. A leashed dog is less likely to have a negative encounter with a bear, coyote, rabid animal or other threat. The Park Commission offers two off-leash areas at Lewis Morris County Park and Central Park of Morris County for your dog(s) to explore without the constraints of a leash.

Respect Wildlife

We are fortunate to live in an area with such a diversity of wildlife species and many of these species call the parks home. Wildlife is best observed by maintaining a distance. Don’t follow or otherwise approach animals – they can behave unpredictably if they feel cornered or threatened.

Never feed wildlife. Our food is not good for them and can make them sick, and potentially kill them outright. Food also causes animals to associate humans with food and can turn them into a nuisance which often ends poorly for the animal.

Keeping your dog(s) on leash is a critical step you can take to protect our wildlife. Allowing dogs to wander off trail can result in a negative encounter, for both the wild animal or the dog itself. Allowing dogs to swim in off-trail ponds can have drastic impacts on our sensitive reptile and amphibian populations which use these areas to breed.

Be aware of sensitive times for wildlife; species are extra vulnerable when they are mating, nesting and raising young. Stay on marked trails and out of the surrounding habitats to help protect those areas for wildlife.

Keep Fire to Designated Areas

Campfires are only permitted in designated fire rings in Park Commission Campgrounds. Do not form your own fire ring or start any form of ground fire on park property.

Barbecuing and grilling is only permitted at the permanent charcoal grills located in designated picnic areas throughout the park system. The use of personal portable grills and propane stoves is only permitted in Park Commission Campgrounds. Charcoal should never be removed from the grills and dumped in surrounding areas; smoldering embers can result in burns and cause a fire. Grills are regularly maintained by Park Commission staff.

Never leave a fire unattended and carefully extinguish any smoking materials.

Following these rules can help prevent a wildfire outbreak which can have devastating impacts to the parks as well as peoples’ safety and property. Wildfires also put the well-being of first responders at risk.

Avoid Spreading Invasive Species

Invasive species are nonnative organisms whose introduction to a particular ecosystem can have devastating effects on its ecology. More information can be found here. There are steps you can take to prevent spreading these species to new areas.

Remove plants, animals and mud from your boots, gear, pets and vehicle before entering and leaving a park. Weed seeds love to hitchhike in the mud caught in the tread of your shoes, on your clothing or in your dog’s fur.

Stay on designated roads and trails. Traveling into unmaintained areas increases the chances of picking up and spreading the seeds of these unwanted species.

Never release pets, live bait, aquarium fish or plants into the wild. Animals like exotic fish and reptiles, or even native species that have been raised in captivity, can wreak havoc on native wildlife and habitat when they are released. If you must surrender a pet because you can no longer care for it, do so responsibility. Some helpful resources:

The Park Commission is actively working to eradicate invasive species from the parks. Help us in our efforts by following these guidelines and by volunteering with our natural resources staff.