I was surprised and relieved by the lack of litter I saw during the class walk at Johnson’s Woods. I volunteer at the Melissa Shultz Nature Preserve in Wooster, and spent hours picking up trash there on Saturday, so I had the impression that similar preserves in the area might be just as polluted. Johnson’s Woods must be well maintained, or must attract more respectful visitors, which I hesitate to believe due to the graffiti present on most of the Beech trees we saw on our walk. Our class discussion touched on the idea that including a boardwalk in Johnson’s Woods makes the preserve more accessible, even to vandals. While that may be true, I have seen tree and rock carvings in many less accessible natural areas that I have experienced, such as Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest. There, vandals had somehow hung off of cliffs to carve their initials into nearly sheer rock faces. Even without a boardwalk, Johnson’s Beech trees would still be scratched and tainted by humans. In many instances, I have seen Western culture (and potentially all human culture) assert human ownership of nature, and I believe tree graffiti is one example of this.
On the topic of accessibility, I believe the boardwalk allows for the disabled, the very young, the very old, and those who are otherwise not able-bodied to share the unusual experience of exploring an Ohio old-growth forest. Nature, even in the form of this small fragment habitat, offers mental and physical health benefits that could be especially helpful to the elderly or disabled. I have learned that patients in hospital rooms with trees out the window heal from injuries faster than those with a view of a building, and I believe this idea can be related and extrapolated to accessibility in Johnson’s Woods. The natural light, fresh air, and fairly quiet and peaceful environment should be available to people of varying age and ability. The boardwalk indicates human presence, yes, but it promotes the protection and well-being of both humans and the natural habitat. The perfectly “natural” and “untouched” boardwalk-less Woods that some people may dream of is impossible. Perfectionism is not a sustainable or effective way of thought when it comes to conservation. We must simply do what we can to be respectful visitors and leave no trace ourselves.