The Office of the Duke Forest has been pleased to keep the Duke Forest Teaching and Research Laboratory open during the pandemic and to welcome recreational visitors in for respite, especially during this unprecedented time. We know it is a well-loved location for nature-based recreation – for hiking, running, and reconnecting with the natural world – but we need the help and cooperation of our recreational visitors to take good care of it. To protect the teaching and research mission, as well as the Forest’s natural resources, recreational use of the Duke Forest Teaching and Research Laboratory must comply with our regulations and safety considerations as well as with signage posted in the Forest.
Over the last several months, Duke Forest staff have noted a dramatic increase in unauthorized recreational activities and associated negative impacts. Some of what our staff is seeing is not new, but the sheer volume and spatial breadth has never been greater. In providing this statement, we offer a boots-on-the-ground view of what we have been finding and request that all of our recreational visitors join us in the stewardship of the Duke Forest Teaching and Research Laboratory. Please help us take care of the Duke Forest simply by following the rules that are in place and paying attention to signage.
Since 1931, the Duke Forest has served as Duke University’s largest and oldest teaching and research laboratory. The Office of the Duke Forest is a small staff dedicated to upholding its teaching and research mission, as well as protecting the natural resources that are foundational to that mission. Dr. Clarence Korstian, the first director of the Duke Forest, recognized the importance of allowing the community to remain in touch with the natural land base, but recreation has always been an ancillary benefit of the Forest’s existence. Today we ask for your cooperation and support to ensure that the Duke Forest remains a teaching, research, and natural asset that can also offer opportunity for nature-based recreation well into the future.
The unauthorized activities listed below – all of which we have documented in the last several months – threaten the Duke Forest’s teaching and research mission, as well as the protection of its natural resources:
(Click to open each to read more.)
1. Use of gravel roads through restricted research areas by foot and bike traffic.
2. Use of foot-only, dirt trails by bike traffic.
3. Use of chainsaws, shovels, and other tools to build mountain bike jumps, bridges, and trail supports.
4. Use of herbicide, hand tools, and/or motorized tools to create unauthorized foot trails and subsequent use by bike and foot traffic.
5. Establishment of unauthorized access points (some with built infrastructure like bridges) and subsequent use by bike and foot traffic.
6. Use of mapping applications to navigate off-trail or to follow unauthorized trails.
7. Removal of physical barriers and signage intended to block and deter use of unauthorized trails and unauthorized access points.
8. Addition of physical elements to the forest environment (e.g. rope swings, signage, hammocks).
9. Creation of physical structures in the forest environment from forest materials (e.g. lean-tos, rock stacking, etc.).
10. Tampering with research projects (e.g. moving research materials, manipulating research infrastructure, etc.).
11. Allowing dogs off-leash (even to swim) and insisting that an electronic device is adequate restraint.
12. Leaving plastic bags filled with dog waste on graveled roads, foot trails, and/or against gate and sign posts.
13. Use of ATVs in the Duke Forest.
14. Hosting unsanctioned race events.
15. Vandalizing signage, grills, picnic shelters, picnic tables, etc.
Please do not hesitate to contact our office at email@example.com if you see any unauthorized or concerning activities.
Additional announcements related to recreational use:
COVID-19: Please carry a mask when recreating in the Duke Forest. Masks are required when passing others and when social distance (>6ft) cannot be maintained. For more information, visit: returnto.duke.edu/public-health-measures
Deer Management: Please note that the Duke Forest will implement its 13th annual deer management program beginning Monday, October 5th and ending Friday, December 11th. During this time, the Blackwood, Durham, and Korstian Divisions will be closed Monday – Friday for all public access and recreation. For more information, visit: dukeforest.duke.edu/management/deer-management.