Sunday, August 30th 2020, 9:04 pm - Increases in visits across Canadian parks and campgrounds during COVID-19 has been met with substantial amounts of trash left behind for maintenance crews to clean up.
While COVID-19 has put a halt on travel plans for many Canadians, the pandemic hasn't stopped them from spending time outdoors, visiting provincial and national parks in the meantime.
That isn't an issue, as long as they're physical distancing. The problem, however, lies in what they are leaving behind -- which is a substantial amount of garbage. The littering has been a headache for park rangers and maintenance crews, who've been dealing with the messes, as well as the overcrowded trails and backcountry campsites.
Out west, the Rockies are a popular tourist attraction. Calgary hiker Sarah Kuindersma visited the Rocky Mountains in June and was shocked by what she saw: Granola bars and wrappers, masks and single-use water bottles along a dirt trail, she told The Toronto Star. She filled four small bags with trash as she trekked along the path.
According to Alberta Parks officials, there has been a spike in the improper disposal of garbage and storage of food.
Trash left on the ground at a park. Photo: Ontario Parks.
The large crowds is a similar story in B.C., where just outside of Squamish, Watersprite Lake has had an increase in the number of hikers and campers on a daily basis. Visitor Bradford McArthur came across a lineup of cars parked bumper-to-bumper on both sides of a narrow dirt road that leads to a trail.
ONTARIO PARKS SEES 7 PER CENT INCREASE IN VISITORS
Ontario sites have also seen an influx of littering and increased visitors. Ontario Parks pointed out the problem on its Facebook page and website, posting pictures of the trash piling up on beaches, parks, campgrounds and the on-site washrooms.
Sarah McMichael, a spokesperson for Ontario Parks, said the province has seen a 7 per cent increase in visitors to campgrounds, compared to last year, and a 29 per cent increase in backcountry camping.
As a result, maintenance staff have been busy picking up trash being left behind at campsites and in other areas of parks, she told The Star. Washrooms have also been hit with overflowing garbage, stuffed into toilets, and dishes left in sinks.
TREAT THE ENVIRONMENT WITH RESPECT: FORMER PARKS RANGER
With the Labour Day weekend looming, experts are pleading for Canadians to be respectful of the environment and follow safety instructions.
“Remember, you are entering someone else’s home — wildlife — treat it with the same respect you would show your grandmother’s home,” said Sarah Bulford, a former B.C. Parks ranger.
Ontario Parks has a list of helpful suggestions on how to properly dispose of trash while on site. Among the tips is to bring a garbage bag with you to collect the trash on your trip. You can dispose of it before you head home at the designated garbage and recycling cans found across the park.
Thumbnail courtesy of Ontario Parks.