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Remember to take pictures and leave only footprints when visiting parks for outdoor hiking this fall.

With increased visitation at Missouri state parks and historic sites, it’s important for visitors to remember to assist park staff in protecting and preserving the state’s natural and cultural resources, according to a press release.

Missouri State Parks is a partner of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and believes in the stewardship of America’s public lands. Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a national organization with a mission of protecting the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. Park and historic site visitors can help by following these seven principles:

• Plan ahead and prepare. Look for information before heading to a park or historic site by visiting mostateparks.com. Updated daily, the park and site status map is the best source for researching whether the park is open or if there are any temporary closures, what recreational opportunities exist, length of the trails and availability of water and public restrooms.

• Always travel on durable surfaces by staying on designated paths, trails and areas, protecting the wildlife, unique features and any sensitive plants or areas along the trails.

• Trash your trash. Always pack out trash, including food scraps, water bottles, wipes, plastic containers, etc.

• Take only pictures and leave only footprints. Leave behind the flowers, rocks and any other treasures for others to see.

• Minimize campfire impacts. If making a fire, use a provided campfire ring or picnic grill. This is especially important during dry spells as a fire could easily spread to unwanted places. Check for any local fire restrictions.

• Respect wildlife. Enjoy their sights and sounds from a distance and never feed them. This protects visitors and the wildlife.

• Respect other visitors. Keep a physical distance from others in the park, talk with inside voices, respect trail right of way and always wear headphones when listening to music. If a trail is busy, warn others when passing.

Protecting and preserving the natural resources of Missouri is the mission of Missouri State Parks. All plants and animals are protected in Missouri State Parks.

Visitors should protect the natural resources by not gathering or cutting firewood, digging holes, using insect-killing devices, collecting plants or animals, discharging sewage or gray water on the ground, or doing any other act that may harm the natural resources.

For more information on general park rules, visit: mostateparks.com/page/55063/laws-and-regulations and mostateparks.com/page/54939/camping-rules-and-regulations.

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