Leave Only Footprints. Orange Beach & Gulf Shores Beaches. Clean. Safe.

Posted on February 5, 2016

Gulf Shores footprints

Leave Only Footprints: We all love the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach beaches. The Leave Only Footprints initiative seeks to keep them the way we love them!

Leave Only Footprints Initiative LogoThe Leave Only Footprints initiative: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach enact new ordinances and kick off a public relations campaign to keep the beaches clean and safe, not only for us, but for sea turtles and other wildlife as well. What’s Leave Only Footprints all about?

Keeping the Orange Beach & Orange Beach beaches clean

You love vacationing in Lower Alabama, and one of the things you probably love most about it (aside from the food, golf, shopping…) is the very nice beaches, some of the nicest beaches, with the best sand, in the country.

Leave No Trace. Well, Leave Only Footprints!

Personal Items Must Be Removed One Hour After Sunset

You probably have seen old chairs, umbrellas, or other items that seem to have been planted as permanent fixtures on the beach. Maybe someone left them out just for their trip or maybe they’ve been there for what seems like years–destined to get beat up and drawn out to sea, bobbing in the Gulf, and marring the coastline.

Effective in 2016, the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach ask that you please remove all your personal items from the beach one hour after sunset. All abandoned items will be removed for the protection of our beaches, local wildlife, and the many visitors we want to enjoy our clean coast for generations to come.

Avoid walking on any beach vegetation.

Plant roots hold together the fragile dunes. Sea Oats form and stabilize the sand dunes that both protect our beaches from erosion and add to Gulf Shores’ beauty. Looking at the Gulf is pretty awesome, but seeing the Gulf framed by peaks and valleys in the dunes simply gorgeous.

Sea Oats’ roots go an amazingly long way down to do this job, but they can’t stand up to kids and adults running all over them. No strong roots = no dunes. And that’s just not good for any of us.

So while it may be fun to catch a frisbee, throw a football, or dig in the dunes, its very harmful to the ecology. So please help us keep the vegetation strong so that it can help us keep coming back to the same beautiful beaches at our beach vacation homes year after year.

Explore away from bird nesting areas.

Nests may be located in the ground and camouflaged to resemble the surrounding environment, so please watch your step! While your are it, keep an eye out for bird nesting areas as well as for Sea Turtle nesting areas. They can be hard to spot, and these are definitely places where you don’t want to even leave footprints.

Staying on paths in hiking areas, and on paths between dunes (or better yet, using walkovers when there is one nearby) is the best way to avoid these fragile areas.

And Leave Nature in Its Place

Keep the natural ecosystem intact by avoiding the removal of shells, driftwood or other items you may find during your island explorations. The smallest bit of driftwood may be home to native species.

Plants are a key part of the ecosystem, so we already know not to dig around them or walk or run on them, but we definitely shouldn’t dig them up. Digging up plants is even specifically proscribed by the Orange Beach ordinance–plus you shouldn’t plant anything (unless its on the prescribed list).

Quick Fact: Proscribed = shouldn’t be done. Prescribed = Should be done. 🙂

Leave Only Footprints, but definitely leave lots of footprints!

Consider the best type of transportation to see the island: your feet! Walking is not only a great form of exercise, but it’s an eco-friendly way to experience the Alabama Gulf Coast.

But not Fido or Fifi’s footprints. Dogs (and other domestic animals) are not allowed on either the Orange Beach or the Gulf Shores beaches, ever. Yes, people do it; no, they shouldn’t be, even on leash; and yes it will merit a fine if your caught doing it. Sure, its fun to run with the big guy, but dogs simply do not belong on the beach. No only do they sometimes leave a little something behind, but they disrupt sea turtle nests (we may have trouble finding these, dogs do not) and other wildlife, plus though we love our dogs (and I have them too, and would love to take them on the beach), not everyone does, and everyone should be able to enjoy their Gulf Shores vacation.

Where to learn more about the Leave Only Footprints initiative

If you like dry original source materials, and come on you know you do, right?, then you can read the full language of the ordinances as they were passed in Gulf Shores and in Orange Beach. The Gulf Shores ordinance is mostly about the removal of your stuff whereas the Orange Beach ordinance covers a much wider range of activities, from no pets, to what you can plant, all of which are great reminders of good practices we should all be doing anyway, right?

Much of the Leave Only Footprints initiative, and the underlying ordinances, follow the 7 basic principles of Leave No Trace, including Leave What You Find, Be Considerate of Other Visitors, and Respect Wildlife, which are things we can all live with.

Plus, come on, sea turtles are awesome!  So let’s all Share the Beach.

You can also follow the Leave Only Footprints, on Facebook.

Happy face on beach in Gulf Shores Alabama

Leave Only Footprints in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. Or the occasional smiley face in the sand (two smiley faces if you count the one you can’t see on the young girl vacationing in this image). (c) ongulfshores.com