COLUMN: Ransacking of local Crown land is a ‘real insult’

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The Swift Rapids Road area and Upper Big Chute area are littered with trash, creating a threat to the abundant and diverse wildlife that seek refuge there

The problem with a condo is that sometimes the other person I’m sharing with… is a slob. In this case, the shared element is Crown land, that glorious real estate in Ontario, the lands, waters, trees and wildlife that are jointly owned by all Ontarians.

Quite honestly, I don’t mind sharing this scenery with any of you, but really, what are some people thinking when they abuse this wonderful relationship?

The story of how “the Crown” came to own all of this territory is, of course, suspect, but for the purposes of this article, let’s just assume that the province currently “owns” it, and that we elected some peoples of us to be guardians of this particular landscape. (Ouch, I think I just bit my tongue.)

But when government departments are emptied of their staff, it leaves the responsibility for local stewardship, well… to the locals; hence a shared responsibility for the health and maintenance of these “common grounds”.

This rant is the result of forays into Crown land, the first being along the private access road known as the Swift Rapids Road, which winds through some of the most spectacular country in the Canadian Shield, and the second is the municipal road. called Upper Big Chute Road, which connects Coldwater to Severn Falls and beyond.

On either side of these roads is a mosaic of private ownership (residential, agricultural and recreational) and shared ownership (Crown land). One road is gravel and poorly maintained while the other is paved with modern guardrails and signage; both are rather remote and isolated.

Because these roads are ‘off the beaten track’, the wildlife that can be found here is still plentiful and diverse. It’s still home to bear and moose, rattlesnake and otter, orchids and a myriad of wildflowers, as well as the proverbial endless forest land.

A network of beaver ponds and streams interconnect between the open rock ridges, carrying nutrients to Georgian Bay. For a naturalist who enjoys exploring natural spaces, this is the proverbial “heaven on earth”.

On my trip along Swift Rapids Road, I encountered ducks, vultures, sandhill cranes and yellow-billed cuckoos, all found while searching for elusive sedges and reptiles.

I managed to locate Carex lavivaginata and Carex lenticularis, two locally rare grass-like sedges (sorry to use scientific names, but sedges are like that) but did not find a five-lined skink, any hog-nosed snake or Massasauga rattlesnake .. . Next time maybe.

Along the sides of Upper Big Chute Road are many swamps and ponds that contain bullfrogs, nesting swans, unique orchids, and shy mammals. I was looking around and found the very rare ram’s-headed lady’s-slipper orchid (a species I had come across over 30 years ago but hadn’t revisited since).

So, pretty cool, huh? Well, that was…except for the garbage I had to walk through to get to those remote sites. It’s truly amazing how much effort some people have gone to to “hide” their trash in the woods!

And the litter wasn’t just a few cups of coffee and a can of pop. It was made up of broken playground equipment, a very large inflatable swim raft, a kitchen sink, tons of plastic water bottles, rugs, mattresses, chairs, seats car seats (not child seats but real car seats), cat litter boxes and a bucket. which once contained aquarium stones. Plus the wrecks and jetsams of cabin refrigerators and pantry cabinets.

More than half of the items were easily recyclable, and anyone living in Simcoe County has super easy access to plastics and glass disposal through our incredible collection system; therefore no valid reason for these items to be discarded.

As for larger items, I understand you need a truck or trailer to transport the items to the local dump…but hello? …didn’t you use a truck or a trailer to haul that shit through the woods?

The real insult was that at the roadside dump along Upper Big Chute Road, if you listened carefully you could hear the trucks and cars driving into the local dump within two minutes! Come on people, what’s wrong with your head?

The only good news, if you can call it that, is that no toxic substances were found. Oil, tar, battery acid, pool chemicals, household cleaners and other nasties can really mess up the local ecosystem, so luckily the damage is mostly visual. But really… grrrr!

So how will these dumps be cleaned up? Do we wait for government or city staff to find them and send in cleanup crews, or do we hope for a local conservation or community club to round up volunteers with a truck to spend a day picking up someone’s mess else?

Neither is morally correct, because the abuser gets away with messing up our shared landscape, and that’s not fair!

However, life goes on and we cannot always choose our neighbours. So let’s collectively try to educate our “co-owners” on the notion of stewardship, and hope that within these mess a receipt or an envelope can be found with the home address of the aggressor. See you soon, neighbor.

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