Spring in the country: watch your manners
Spring is coming. Everyone wants to get out and about in nature to welcome the retreat of the snow, and to stroll, hike, bike, horseback ride, or paddle in the countryside and urban parks.
As well, many want to pick some spring blossoms for our homes as we explore backroads.
So it’s appropriate to mention some timely reminders about country property and being good neighbours, plus a mention of park etiquette.
Country drives, picnics
Packing a picnic in the car to enjoy on the road or at your destination is fun. What’s the big deal?
The Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics (LNT) suggests a set of principles we can all follow and practice as individuals, families, and groups. Indeed, most international outfitters and guides teach Leave No Trace principles to guests and highlight them on their websites and literature. (https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles)
However, sometimes when we’re in our own “backyards” we slip up and forget to be as diligent. We all know how annoying it is to be biking or riding our horses on a back-country road, only to find Tim Horton’s coffee cups, meal packaging, plastic water bottles and pop cans lying around. And don’t get me started about piles of cigarette butts where someone has dumped their car ash tray on the road.
We all know better.
Leave No Trace lists
LNT presents a helpful list of things to remember when we venture outside. For example, their “Dispose of Waste Properly” website section is clear: “Pack it in, pack it out.” This is the mantra, where we all take time to gather every single item of waste at the end of our picnic, pop it into our daypack, and take it to a garbage bin at home or roadside.
Foraging for wild foods and craft supplies is an increasingly popular activity. However, there are some serious factors to consider. For example, after properly identifying the plant so you know what you’ll be eating or re-planting, only gather 10% of it – and only if it is growing in abundance. (For good tips check wildedible.com)
Note that picking plants in Gatineau Park or any park is illegal and we all may be fined if we pick mushrooms, wild garlic, or gather plants for wreaths. Just don’t do it, and leave the wild – wild. After all, we are encroaching on animals’ habitat so much outside park boundaries, surely we can leave what’s inside parks for their shelter and food?
Outside parks, we must realize that what we’re perhaps viewing as pastoral countryside is likely someone’s property. That lovely looking pussy willow beside the stream, that’s just over a fence is actually on private land. Clambouring over the fence may damage it and allow livestock to wander, and picking or even digging up the plant might kill it. Why be destructive? Just want a place to have a picnic? Go to a public park.
However, another very acceptable approach is to ask a landowner if it is okay to collect apples, for instance. I have done this in the past, where my husband Eric and I would stop to ask if we could pick the apples, Canada plums or other fruits obviously on someone’s land. Know what? We were always allowed to pick. And please: If you’re given permission, do ensure you close gates and remove any garbage.
There’s a huge buzz going on about photographing wildlife where a few photographers throw things (sticks, stones, or even live prey such as pet-store mice) at owls or other animals so as to get an action shot.
The Ottawa Field Naturalist Club has an excellent list of tips for birders, birdwatchers, and photographers (http://www.ofnc.ca/birding/Code-of-Conduct.pdf). Read it and realize how we can avoid stressing wildlife.
Lead by example
Spring’s coming and so do get outside. Do enjoy nature. Just please let’s all try to do our bit and teach youngsters by leading... Leading by example.
Contact Katharine Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Alana Repstock