Campsite decorated for Halloween with pumpkin in front of tent trailer

How to practice proper pumpkin etiquette in parks

Today’s blog comes from Discovery Program Project Coordinator Jessica Stillman. In the fall, if she isn’t outside with students learning about mushrooms or how animals prepare for winter, she’s inside baking up a pumpkin treat!

Spooky season is upon us!

It’s time for cobwebs, witches, and skeletons to adorn our lawns and porches. Who doesn’t love admiring the creative carving of a jack-o-lantern, its toothy grin lit by a flickering flame?

These hauntingly fun decorations are part of the Halloween spirit, but what happens to them once November 1 rolls around?

Let’s squash this habit

This fall, we’ve heard some visitors ask if they can compost their jack-o-lanterns and pumpkins in natural spaces like provincial parks.

We’ve also been asked by our campers how they can safely dispose of their pumpkins after use.

Pumpkin carved as bat for Halloween

We love hearing that people are trying to find ecofriendly ways to dispose of their pumpkins. Keeping them out of landfills is great!

However provincial parks are not the places for composting pumpkins.

Leaving pumpkins to decompose in a protected area has detrimental effects on the living things our parks are trying to protect.

Not gourd for parks

decomposing pumpkins

A pumpkin tossed into a forest will eventually decompose, but the seeds won’t.

They will lay dormant in the soil waiting for the warmth of spring to begin growing. This leads to pumpkin plants popping up all over our parks!

Each year we see more and more pumpkins and seeds, which are further spread around by animals eating and storing food for winter.

Pumpkin plants are not a natural part of our parks. They take up space and resources other plants need to survive. Over time, they reduce the natural food sources for animals, and degrade the beauty of our parks.

While we might see animals eating pumpkins or pumpkin seeds, this isn’t natural food for them. Parks are already full of healthy food that is meant to help animals prepare for winter.

squirrel eating pumpkin

Pumpkins can also harm animals if they get their heads or antlers stuck in them while they feed.

It may be funny to imagine, but think about how scared that animal would be. This could be dangerous to their life.

There’s nothing scarier than a tossed pumpkin

Just because something is biodegradable, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for a provincial park.

Pumpkin carved as spider for Halloween

If you’re camping at the park, make sure all of your organic campsite decorations are disposed of properly.

Never toss your pumpkins (or anything else living) into the forest.

Instead, why not consider other ways to dispose of your pumpkin creation?

Perfect pumpkin solutions

rotting pumpkin

Here are a few ways our staff repurpose their pumpkins:

Who doesn’t love smashing pumpkins?! No, not the band. But smashing your pumpkin into smaller pieces at home is a lot of fun!

Mix the pumpkin remnants into your own garden to help next year’s plants grow. Be sure to remove the seeds if you don’t want pumpkins in your garden!

Roast the seeds as a tasty snack or puree your jack-o-lantern to bake into a tasty treat!

Pumpkin loaf, pumpkin pie, or pumpkin soup; the options are endless. Just make sure your pumpkin hasn’t gone rotten before you try to cook with it.

ingredients for dessert

Dry the seeds out before storing them to plant next year. How cool would it be to grow your own pumpkin from the previous year’s seeds?

Donate your pumpkin remains. Do a little research into local establishments that will take your pumpkin donation. Some petting zoos and farms have donation programs where they use the pumpkins in their own compost, or as tasty treats for their animals!

Does this mean I can’t decorate my campsite?

Of course not! We love to see our campers’ festive spirit.

However, we need to remember that our actions, even the well-intentioned ones, can have lasting effects on the natural spaces we adore.

It’s important to follow best park practices to help us maintain the ecological integrity of our protected areas.

And don’t forget to make sure all of your decorations are environmentally friendly!

Don’t let your pumpkins haunt us after Halloween!

By not disposing of your pumpkins in a provincial park, you are helping us keep our parks natural and healthy.

Happy spooky season!