A long beach and shoreline in a bay.

#ForTheLoveOfParks: 5 ways to help keep parks clean and safe this year

Last year, Ontario’s protected areas experienced record-breaking demand.

Ontario Parks received 11 million visits, and Parks Canada reported over 2 million visits.

That’s 13 million visits to Ontario’s provincial and national parks in one year. That’s roughly equivalent to the population of Ontario!

As we enter another busy year, Ontario Parks and Parks Canada are asking all our visitors to show their love of parks by taking action to protect our precious natural spaces.

Here are five ways you can do your part:

1. Lose the litter

One of the biggest challenges we face as a park system is litter.

A visitor disposing of garbage at Emily Provincial Park.

We see a significant amount of litter left behind on campsites and in day use areas. Our staff are always here to help, but at times the trash is more than we can keep up with.

Garbage systems are in place in parks to make disposing of your trash as easy as possible. Make sure to properly bag your trash and dispose of it in a designated receptacle. Even better: look for ways you can reduce the waste you bring to the park.

Always pack out every piece of litter you bring in.

2. Practice good camping etiquette

Campers are some of the best stewards of park spaces, and practicing proper camping etiquette helps to ensure we can continue to enjoy our protected areas for generations.

Girl holds up tent while parents put together poles.

When cooking on your site, make sure you store your food properly. Follow dishwashing etiquette, and never dump any dishwater on your site.

Water taps are for collecting water to bring back to your campsite. Do not wash your dishes, brush your teeth, or clean yourself at the water tap.

Be kind and courteous when using the comfort stations. You can help avoid a plumbing disaster by never flushing anything non-flushable.

Lastly, make sure your campfire is always under control. Never bring firewood from outside the area you’re visiting or collect it from the forest.

3. Plan ahead and arrive prepared

Even the best trip can be spoiled by getting lost or injured.

Know your limits before you embark on your adventure, and ensure your equipment is in good working condition.

A visitor at Emily Provincial Park mapping their hike through the trails.

You can plan ahead by researching the park you’re visiting before you head out. Visit OntarioParks.com for the latest information on the available facilities and activities.

You can also follow your favourite park on social media for up-to-date information on alerts and capacity at the park.

4. Respect the environment

As park-lovers, we are all stewards of Ontario’s protected places. It’s important to respect the park space and the wildlife who live there.

A trail through a forest.

When you’re exploring the park, remember to always stay on designated trails. Parks are the home of many species of plants and animals, and it’s important that we do not trample their habitat.

This goes for feeding wildlife as well. Feeding wildlife is dangerous and unhealthy for them. Please give animals their space and admire them from a distance.

When an area is protected, it’s important we don’t remove anything from the environment or introduce anything new. This means not to pick flowers or any other natural objects, and to always pack out anything you bring in.

5. Be kind

2021 will be extremely busy for parks across Ontario. We all need to do our part.

A masked visitor obtains their vehicle permit at Emily Provincial Park's gatehouse.

Remember to demonstrate a respectful attitude to those around you at all times.

Our staff are working extremely hard so you can have a great outdoor experience. Please be patient, kind, and courteous. We are here to help!

Don’t forget to always follow local public health guidelines.

What will you do #ForTheLoveOfParks? 

Every time you’re tempted to take a shortcut or let the responsible thing slide, imagine if 13 million people did the same?

When these behaviours are repeated across millions of people they create a significant challenge for staff and damage our protected spaces.

And remember: it works both ways. Imagine if 13 million of us came together.

This year, let’s commit to respecting and protecting the parks we love.

Special thanks to our friends at Parks Canada.