Whether it's on foot, on a bike or even on the water, one thing is clear: Jerks participating in offensive and risky behaviors can easily ruin the experience for others, as well as pose a risk to wildlife. And based on the response we've seen to "Don't Be A Jerk," the Forest Preserve District's big, bold multimedia campaign, nobody likes a jerk.
The 2019 campaign closes out with a trip on the water to tackle the topic of fishing and boating. This comes on the heels of jerk dog owners who make no attempt to follow some basic rules, those who litter and dump disgusting amounts of trash in the preserves, and trail hogs who are completely oblivious to others trying to share the trail.
The final topic is one we often get complaints about: Boaters and fishermen who don't realize — or care — that they're not the only ones out on the water or along the shoreline.
“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.”
The campaign also is designed to protect wildlife that can be harmed by improperly disposed of cigarette butts, fishing line and other refuse.
The over-the-top videos use humor and simple messages to educate and encourage positive behavior for the benefit of everyone out 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."
The public's response has been overwhelmingly positive and the campaign has garnered attention from multiple major Chicago media outlets, as well as media outlets across the nation.
"I gotta give it to the Will County Forest Preserve. Government agencies have to tiptoe around, they have to be very, very nice to people," said WJOL's Scott Slocum. "But the Will County Forest Preserve is starting a campaign that is anything but over the top nice. I love it. They're like, 'you know what, we don't have to be nice.' Don't be a jerk, because that's what people are being when they do any of those things."
Four videos were produced in an effort to educate and inspire visitors to be respectful of nature and other preserve patrons. The videos in an exaggerated way illustrate what not to do and feature information on:
- Reining in your dog: The first in the series, this video focuses on keeping your dog on a leash and under control as well as picking up its poop.
- How to dispose of garbage: This video shows viewers the proper way to throw away their trash. 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: This third video reminds trail users to be respectful of others and don't hog the trail. Know the trails have multiple uses and users. Walk/run/bike on the right, pass on the left. And definitely don’t lay across a trail around a blind curve while taking a family photo.
- Fishing and boating: 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, and don’t crowd other fishermen.
Signs also are posted in the preserves and 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.
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