How Did Leave Only Footprints Get Started?
Around fifteen years ago, community leaders realized we had a serious problem. The sea turtles weren’t nesting like they used to, and birds were so comfortable around humans, they got bold, sometimes taking food right out of peoples’ hands. The harmony of our local sea life and wildlife was imbalanced. We were met with a challenge on how to balance beach fun for people with a healthy ecosystem for wildlife.
Every year, more than six million people visit Alabama’s beaches to vacation and enjoy our white-sand beaches, amazing fishing, water sports, shopping and the many other activities our destination offers. Practicing responsible tourism when visiting Gulf Shores & Orange Beach is vital to keeping our beaches in the pristine condition we all enjoy today.
Together, our two communities, area business and concerned citizens organized in 2007 to create a beach sustainability program to protect our valuable natural assets. In 2015, the Beach Litter program was added to further protect the health and safety of the beach, surrounding waters, animals and, of course, beachgoers.
The Success of Leave Only Footprints
The program has been a huge success! Local hotels, condos and businesses have all pitched in, promoting the program with flyers and pamphlets to educate guests. Staff and volunteers have committed to preserving the beach through several initiatives. Additionally, eco-volunteers have done an amazing job to protect the dunes and sea turtle nests. The whole community has rallied around healthy beach living, and there has been great progress.
In 2016, the area earned two noteworthy awards: The Alabama Tourism Department Partnership Award commends the successful partnership between the Leave Only Footprints initiative with the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. It recognizes the importance of the campaign on sustainability, protection of valued natural resources, and continued tourism success. The Alabama PALS Governor’s Award recognizes the commitment to litter control, recycling, local cleanup efforts, environmental education and volunteerism. Visit our responsible tourism page to learn more ways to help sustainability efforts.