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Forest Preserve Rolls Out ‘Don’t be a Jerk’ Campaign

Photo for: Forest Preserve Rolls Out ‘Don’t be a Jerk’ Campaign

The Forest Preserve District is rolling out a big, bold multimedia campaign designed to get people to behave in the preserves and treat nature and other preserve visitors with respect. 

The effort is in response to complaints by members of the public who don’t want to be walking through a preserve filled with litter and dog poop or traveling on a trail with people hogging the whole path or letting their dogs run amok. The campaign also is designed to protect wildlife that can be harmed by improperly disposed of cigarette butts, fishing line and other refuse. 

The campaign will consist of “Don’t Be A Jerk” videos showing what not to do, eye-catching signs featuring photos and messages that encourage better behavior, and social media posts that show the latest garbage dumped in a preserve, which is an almost daily occurrence.

While the Forest Preserve’s ordinance prohibits the activities targeted in the campaign and there are traditional signs posted throughout the preserves, it doesn’t seem to be enough to discourage the behaviors that mar nature and harm wildlife.

“We’re taking a creative approach to an ongoing problem,” said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve’s chief operating officer. “This marketing strategy is designed to be responsive to those concerns expressed by the public.”


‘Don’t be a Jerk’ videos

Four videos will be produced in an effort to educate and inspire visitors to be respectful of nature and other preserve patrons. The videos in an exaggerated way will illustrate what not to do and will feature information on:

  • Reining in your dog: Keep your dog on a leash and under control and pick up its poop. 
  • How to use a garbage can: Garbage goes inside the can, not on top of, not tossed within 20 feet of the can or even worse, just tossed in the preserve.
  • How to use a trail: Know the trails have multiple uses and users. Walk/run/bike on the right, pass on the left. And don’t hog the trail. And definitely don’t lay four people wide across a trail around a blind curve while taking a family photo.
  • Fishing: All anglers should properly dispose of fishing line, hooks, etc. to prevent harm and potentially death to wildlife, and be considerate of other anglers. Don’t bogart the beach with your boat, ignore fishing regulations by taking too many fish, and don’t crowd other fishermen.

Eye-catching signs

Signs that will be posted in the preserves will feature photos of cute animals and clear messages, including: 

  • Raccoon: Don’t be a litter bug. This is my home. Protect wildlife by recycling, reusing or disposing of your trash in a garbage bin.
  • Bird with a cigarette butt in its mouth: Cigarettes kill wildlife. Cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals that pollute the environment and harm wildlife. Do not throw your cigarette butts on the ground. Dispose of them in a proper receptacle.
  • Pig: Don’t be a trail hog. Share the trails. Respect other trail users and keep everyone safe by staying to the right and passing on the left. Travel at safe speeds and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Dachshund: Don’t be a wiener. Keep your dog on a leash and pick up its poop. Dog feces can be harmful to the environment and to people. Dispose of dog waste properly. Dogs also must be leashed on the trail for their safety.
  • Pelican: Don’t be trashy. Fishing line kills wildlife. Getting entangled in fishing line can be deadly for animals. Always cut fishing line into pieces less than 6 inches long and dispose of it in covered containers.

The campaign will use a bit of humor and simple messages to educate and encourage positive behavior for the benefit of all who spend time in the preserves. 

"For the majority of our preserve users who are doing the right thing, these messages should serve as more of a pat on the back to acknowledge that they are mindful of the rules, and that they care about the health and beauty of the preserves and the creatures who live there," explained Laura Kiran, the Forest Preserve's director of Marketing and Communications. "They can read the signs and social media posts and watch the videos, and know that they are doing their part. For those who aren't behaving as they should, we hope this will serve as a bold reminder. Everyone needs to pitch in to ensure the preserves remain places where wildlife can thrive and where people will want to continue to visit."


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