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Ontario Backcountry Camping group reports increase in trash in camping sites

As more people in Ontario stay in the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an experienced camper says he’s noticing signs of people showing disrespect towards nature and other campers.

Sean Pedersen says it’s important to enjoy nature, but people need to respect it

Camping expert Sean Pedersen says it's important to enjoy nature, but he says if you do go camping you need to protect yourself and the environment. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

As more people in Ontario stay in the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an experienced camper says he's noticing signs of people showing disrespect towards nature and other campers.

Sean Pedersen is the administrator of the Facebook group Ontario Backcountry Camping, which has 12,000 members. He and other campers have noticed an increase of inexperienced campers, and they're working to educate how to be in the bush with little impact. 

This summer, Pedersen says he and others have noticed a mess in the bush due to an influx of first-time campers.

Pedersen says campers should try and follow the concept of leaving no trace.

"Obviously, you're going to leave some kind of a trace, but the idea is to leave as little of a trace as possible," he said. "You don't want to leave garbage strewn around the campsites."

He says some people are tempted to burn their garbage in the campfire, but he says the best way to deal with it is to pack it up and take it out with you.

When you're out in nature and nature starts to call, Pedersen says you need to think of a plan depending on what washroom facilities are available on site.

He says some established backcountry campsites in provincial parks contain "thunderboxes" or "treasure chests."

"It's basically a wooden box with a lid on it where you do your business," he said.

But, he says a lot of sites on Crown Land don't have any amenities.

"So there's human waste and toilet paper scattered all around," he said.

"We try to teach them good practices about digging what we call cat holes and how to bury your waste and take care of it."

Enjoy nature, but leave no trace

He says you should go to the washroom at least 30 metres away from the shoreline, so you don't contaminate the water.

As for staying clean yourself, Pedersen says just because soap says it's biodegradable, that doesn't mean you can have a shower in the lake.

"The biodegradable soaps are not biodegradable in the water," he said.

Pedersen says it's frustrating to see this type of behaviour happening in nature.

"Obviously we want people to come out and enjoy Canada's wilderness. We want people to come out and find the joys of the backcountry," he said.

"But when you get a large influx of people, this is what happens."

According to Ontario Parks, its campground reservation rate is seven per cent higher than last year. The rate of backcountry camping also increased by 29 per cent compared to summer 2019.

Lots of people in northern Ontario are resorting to stay-cations in bush and park areas this summer because of COVID-19 ...but many first-timers may not be practising good camping etiquette. We hear from the administrator of the Ontario Backcountry Camping Facebook group. 4:54

With files from Jean-Loup Doudard

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