Campfire burns a trace in Witmer Woods

Campfire burns a trace in Witmer Woods

Photo by Chase Snyder.

Photo by Chase Snyder.

Letter to the editor

To the campfire enthusiasts of Witmer Woods:

I enjoy a good night of tenting just a much as the next person. There’s something about sleeping that close to nature that reinvigorates and restores. Thus, I had a quiet little smile when I spied the bright red-orange tent around 7:30 a.m. on Saturday in Witmer Woods.

My smile was quickly replaced by a frown, however, when I came across a still actively smoldering bed of coals in the middle of the path. I spread out the hot spots as best I could and smashed ends of glowing firewood into the damp earth, while feeling both disappointed and frustrated.

My moment of feeling some kinship with you, assuming that we shared a love of, and respect for nature, was replaced by disappointment. Somehow, you’ve learned to pitch a respectable tent and build a campfire, but haven’t learned the principles of Leave No Trace (or worse, chose to disregard them last night).

The Bureau of Land Management environmental education Web site reads:

“The Leave No Trace principles may not seem important [at] first glance, but their value is apparent when combining the combined effects of millions of outdoor visitors. One poorly located campsite or fire ring is of little significance, but thousands of such instances slowly degrade the outdoor experience for all. Leave No Trace is worth the effort” (http://www.blm.gov/education/lnt/principles.html).

I am well aware that the fire on Friday night was not the first one in that particular spot. Those of us who regularly enjoy the beauty of Witmer Woods have seen evidence of people’s unwillingness to use the designated fire ring over the years. This is the first time, however, that I’ve encountered an active fire hazard.

I stopped by your tent on my own out of the woods, and asked you (through the tent walls) to please make sure your fire was OUT before leaving. I chose not to hassle you enough to make sure that you actually were awake and heard me, but I had to say something.

Our woods can’t speak for themselves.

Jeanne Liechty is an associate professor of social work at Goshen College.

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