Oh Christmas Tree

A spruce tree with its top removed outside the entrance to Sharon Woods Metro Park
A spruce tree with its top removed outside the entrance to Sharon Woods Metro Park

Last week, rangers at Sharon Woods noticed a spruce tree had been cut just outside of the main gate. Not the whole tree, but rather just the top third of the tree. Just enough to make a small Christmas tree. Maybe it wasn’t for a Christmas tree. Maybe it was cut for some other reason… a week before Christmas. Regardless, for us rangers it is disappointing to say the least, and not to mention illegal. It also highlights why we need to protect our natural resources.

A theory of economics, called the Tragedy of the Commons, states that a shared resource (parks can be considered a shared resource) left to the control of the individual users, will result in the depletion of the shared resources. This is due to the individual user putting the need of themselves over the needs of all users, whether or not the individual user is even aware their actions are depleting the resource. We often hear, well it is only one tree cut, or one flower picked, etc. What isn’t considered is Sharon Woods receives over 700,000 visitors each year. Even if a small percentage of those visitors break the rules, such as damaging natural resources (i.e. cutting trees or picking flowers) it can have a large impact on the park. That tree cut outside the gate may not die, but it will not continue to grow. That one flower picked by that one visitor is no big deal, until another visitor picks one flower the next day. And another visitor picks another flower the day after that. And so on and so on.

Metro Parks puts Rules and Regulations in place to prevent this “tragedy of the commons.” Rangers enforce these rules and regulations, working diligently to protect your natural resources, in addition to providing clean, safe parks for all to enjoy. You can help by respecting the shared resource and following the rules and regulations while you enjoy your Metro Parks. Report any illegal and suspicious activity to the ranger on duty or by contacting the Metro Parks Dispatcher at 614.620.1865.

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