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For the love of parks

By Steve McCann

Before you pack up the car and head out for your weekend camping trip, let’s go over the basic rules of camping etiquette: Leave only footprints, take only memories.

It seems simple enough, but it’s been a long pandemic, and we could all use a refresher.

In fact, the tsunami of crowds flocking outdoors this summer has prompted Parks Canada and Ontario Parks to launch the #ForTheLoveOfParks hashtag – reminding all those eager visitors that consequences have actions.

Of course, there’s the big offenders: if you litter anywhere, stay home. Another no-no? Park rangers are getting fed up with campers helping themselves to firewood from the surrounding forest. Firewood is sold at the visitor’s centre for a reason. Some parks have even set up shuttle services to prevent all those social media butterflies from taking up valuable parking spots, or parking on adjacent residential streets just for a 15-minute photo shoot in front of a waterfall.

Despite all these infractions, it’s the seemingly harmless actions that are the big culprits. Taking a little piece of driftwood home from your day at the beach or treating yourself to a hike off the marked trail. It may not seem like a big deal, but when it’s you and thousands of other people doing the same “little” thing over the course of a summer – it adds up, fast.

It’s a catch-22 situation. We’ve been stuck inside a long time, just ask your partner. We’ve also been told it’s safe to enjoy outdoor activities. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors?

Here are some ways to mitigate the impact on our beloved outdoor space, and the ideas are all easy enough for even the most novice of campers.

For starters, try visiting a park besides Algonquin or Bruce Peninsula. Ontario has many wonderful provincial parks to choose from – so go ahead and burn an extra vacation day and make the trek to a lesser-known park.

Parks are also open outside of June, July, and August. Don’t let the calendar stop you from breathing in that crisp fall air while you take in the radiant colours of the changing leaves.

A final note before you try to find your tent in the basement crawlspace. (Good luck, by the way). Not a lot of taxpayer dollars go toward provincial parks. The last time new parks were opened for recreational use was in 1989, and there’s no evidence any new ones will open anytime soon. They’re a precious resource, and it’s up to all of us to treat them with respect.

Leave only footprints, take only memories.


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