As traceurs we are deeply in tune with the environments in which we train. We interact directly with the walls, trees, ground, railings, and concrete. We move over and through our cities and parks, learning the contours and textures of the world around us. Our goal, of course, is to become as efficient as possible. But in working toward that goal, how do we impact the structures and natural resources we train on? Are we leaving scuff marks on concrete walls? Are we trampling saplings in a state park? Are we damaging playground equipment that wasn’t designed for high-impact adult play?
Parkour Visions’ Leave No Trace initiative is about respecting and preserving the places we train. It isn’t an event that takes place once a year. We have to incorporate it into every training session, whether as instructors/students in a Parkour class, as part of a group jam, or alone. Respect for the places you practice means taking steps to show gratitude and care for them.
The philosophy of Leave No Trace is focused on personal responsibility and awareness of your surroundings. It breaks down into two main categories:
When we practice together in our favorite places, we begin to speak in shorthand, telling our stories using a few choice words, and everyone in the group understands. We all know that branch that was cut off the swingy tree by the fountain. We all know the A-Frame, the circle rails, the Big Wall. We know these places like we know old friends. They’ve shared failure after failure, and then gradually, success after success. But they’ve also taken a beating.
You might recall Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, in which a young boy takes joy in gathering the apples and swinging on the branches of a tree. As he grows, so do his needs, and the tree gives more. At the end of the story, the tree is nothing more than a stump, and the old man that was once the boy can no longer do anything but sit. If we treat our training grounds – trees and all – like this, we will lose them bit by bit.
Leave No Trace begins with knowing your equipment and environment. This breaks down into a few simple practices that you can build into your training:
Inspect equipment before and after use. This is especially important when training on playgrounds because not all equipment is designed for the kind of high-impact play that Parkour entails. Increasingly, playground equipment builders are taking adults’ innate desire to play into account when designing play structures. Members of the Parkour Visions board recently attended the Washington Recreation amp; Parks Administration conference and had the opportunity to meet with designers and builders of playground equipment.
Board member Jeremy Modjeska spoke with distributors of play structures who supply public and private playgrounds throughout the Pacific Northwest. “These products are designed with people like us in mind, and these guys were delighted to see us putting them to the test,” Jeremy said after exploring a new structure by NW Play Equipment, “they’ve adopted a philosophy that incorporates child and adult play in a way that invites everybody to enjoy themselves without worrying about breaking anything.”
But not all playgrounds are built to such robust standards. Traceurs should check equipment for stability and flexibility before attempting to train on it, and should exercise good judgment and err on the side of caution when exploring new trianing grounds. One of the joys of Parkour is its portability: if you can’t safely practice a vault in one place, keep going and you’ll find someplace else.
Wear non-marking shoes. Shoe manufacturers are quick to respond to market demand. In the past few years we’ve seen the evolution of Steath Rubber and the Freerunner shoe as well as other innovations in shoe design specifically for the Parkour/freerunning audience. Now, shoe manufacturers are beginning to respond to traceurs’ demands for shoes with non-marking soles.
Janine Cundy is a co-founder of Parkour Visions and champion of the Leave No Trace initiative. She stresses the importance of this simple step: "the shoe marks left by some traceurs are a source of pride, but they are a nuisance to other citizens, property owners, and park managers. These places aren’t here specifically for us, so we have to take pains to keep them pleasant for everyone else. Besides … I bet ninjas don’t leave shoe marks.” As more information becomes available, we’ll add details to this site. You can also contribute to the discussion on Washington Parkour’s gear thread.
If you break something, take responsibility for fixing it yourself. If you can’t fix it yourself, see if Parkour Visions can help. If we know about damage when it happens we can help to minimize repercussions. Our worst fear is seeing “No Parkour” signs on our favorite training grounds, so we believe that honesty and a willingness to fix things when we break them – or even when they were already broken – improves our community standing and makes us more responsible traceurs.
Remember that when you are training you’re a walking (or running) opportunity to publicize Parkour. The more you develop your skills, the more people will be interested in what you’re doing. So in between practicing your moves, take a few minutes to make sure you’re not leaving marks and show that you care about the environment around you.
Community Clean-up Events. Get involved. Parkour Visions frequently sponsors community clean-up events at some of our favorite training spots around the Northwest. You can look for more information on our blog, or get some friends together to sponsor your own clean-up. You can generate more interest and let the public know why you’re giving back by notifying your local media, city or county government. Contact Parkour Visions if you need help putting together and/or publicizing a clean-up event, and check how the Parkour community is doing altogether on the LNT tracker at American Parkour.