One thing is certain: Nobody likes a jerk in the preserves, and that's confirmed by the response we've seen to "Don't Be A Jerk," the Forest Preserve District's big, bold multimedia campaign.
After tackling the topic of jerk dog owners who make no attempt to follow some basic rules, the District is releasing its second video in the series focusing on garbage. Whether it's littering or fly dumping (illegally unloading large sums of garbage of all types), trash in the preserves can have a negative impact on wildlife as well as the public's experience while in the preserves.
Excessive littering and fly dumping — which is a preventable problem — also costs the District additional time and money to clean up the messes left behind.
“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 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.
‘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: The first in the series, this video was released June 24 and focuses on keeping your dog on a leash and under control as well as picking up its poop.
- How to dispose of garbage: 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.
Signs also are being 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.
The campaign uses 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."
The first video on social media has been overwhelmingly positive and has garnered attention from multiple major Chicago media outlets.
A sample of what people are saying:
- "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."
- "AWESOME! We've had ongoing meetings and discussions on this very topic, much consternation about the impact of unleashed dogs in some of our restored areas on the plants and wildlife." — Mequon Nature Preserve
- "Here’s a great information campaign from @WillCoForests. I think this should be implemented nationwide in all natural areas. Good job @WillCoForests!"
- "This is perfect! I have encountered this type who had a dog run up and stick its giant head in my 4yr olds face."
- "This was great. Informative and funny. #dontbeajerk"
- "How true is this, you hit the nail on the head."
- "This was awesome!! (Funny, but not funny)!!"
- "Spot on! Thank you."
- "Hope the jerks see this!"
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