[email protected]. With the word nature in the address, you’d think people would respect the address, and find it reprehensible to dump garbage, there. In nature. On Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority land. Well, guess what. Not everyone got the memo. No truer is that, as evidenced in the regional geography known as The Hiawatha Highlands.
Recently, a surprise find of a trailer load of asphalt shingles was found.
An unknown someone dumped the load of shingles at the staging area, Connor Road, Hiawatha Highlands. It was left for the Conservation Authority to sort out the obvious drag that the issue presented; Cleaning the lovely mess up. And asphalt roofing shingles along with other debris that comes with that sort of job is definitely a drag. It is also a criminal act. Whatever the legal issues are that this type of crime presents, it is surely a criminal act against nature. That should be good enough.
SSMRCA continue to be the stewards of several natural spaces in and around the city of Sault. As part of the mandate for SSMRCS, a significant trail system through the highlands exists. Saultonline went out to Hiawatha Highlands and met with Deane Greenwood, Trails Coordinator SSMRCA.
Operating on a tightly framed budget, developing education and outreach opportunities for youth and adult volunteers has become integral to the work of SSMRCA. Parallel organizations with educational and environmental stewardship as part of their work, such as Clean North and local school boards, continue to partner with SSRCA to facilitate exploration, protection and preservation of regional conservation authority lands. The young people get out into the natural world, and in so doing, become witnesses to the importance of these spaces.
Field trips are on, at various times throughout the year. One class has made it a thing that every year they go out and take on a spring clean-up exercise at Hiawatha Highlands, in the vicinity of Connor Rd.
“We have a lot of volunteer groups that help us. One fellow, in particular who organizes clean-ups with us, including a high school class, is Don McGorman, Clean North. Don put things in motion with White Pines teacher, Megan Peltsch and her class. They have more than once, come out and helped us clean up the area. Don McGorman is very involved in Sault Ste. Marie and area with environmental issues; Clean North, tree planting, mulching and composting, Don is a busy guy. He continues to be instrumental in the development and ongoing work with the Voyageur Trail Association.”
“I would like to give a shout-out to those White Pines students and the enthusiasm they showed us. The day they cleaned up in the spring was tremendous. They gave us such a big hand. They filled a couple of trailers; Something like 18 or 19 bags of garbage; 4 or 5 large bins of recycling. The biggest thing, when the students were cleaning up over there, (Connor Rd) is that they couldn’t get over why people would do this. Dump garbage. It was a really good message coming from them. They just couldn’t get over how much was there.”
“The large trailer load of shingles was dumped in November in the Connor Road area. This isn’t new; we’re always picking up this stuff. The West Davignon Floodway channel is another area that can see a lot of dumping by people. We’ve cleaned up mattresses, chesterfields, deep freezes, and fridges, from the floodways. It’s a weekly thing that we’re cleaning up somewhere. The Connor Road site is a little more remote.”
“We can’t prosecute them criminally, unless we have a picture of the person physically dumping the garbage.”
“This is random people (dumping garbage), not people who care about the trails.
The Connor Road area is where the cross country ski trails, hub trail, voyageur trail and mountain bike trail system intersect.
Greenwood spoke about the expanded parking lot at the top of Connor Road. “The air cadets were having the biathlon out here a few years ago. The bus needed a better place to turn around so the city expanded the parking lot to accommodate that need. It’s plowed in the winter time.”
“Any week night, there are often between 50 – 100 participants riding on these trails. It’s unbelievable how popular it is. At this time of year, the trails get closed off from walking or hiking because they’re used for skiing. There are some new signs up along the trails. The voyageur and hub trails are marked. The yellow markings indicate that you are on a loop trial. The main trail is marked with white. If you are on a loop trail, you will eventually meet up with the main trail.”
“In this area, the Hiawatha Highlands, it’s fairly complex. 5th line is a boundary. The Soo Finnish Ski Club is right down the road. (from Conservation Authority). Kinsmen Park is close to us here. The Kinsmen own their property. It’s not free public land. It’s all private property. Across the Road is the MNR (Ministry Natural Resources). Behind us, is the SSMRCA property. Connor Road turns into 6th L., which used to be called the Goat Farm. It’s a very busy area for families, for walking, hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and snowmobiling.”
‘Sault Ste Marie is fortunate to have the natural splendor of Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area, located between Fifth and Sixth Line, east of Great Northern Road (Hwy.17 N). The Highlands offer magnificent scenery including breathtaking waterfalls and 35 kilometres (22 miles) of nature trails. Hundreds of hectares of forests with creeks, lakes and wetlands create the ideal habitat for more than 70 species of birds and 18 species of mammals.
In the winter trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. The ski trails wind their way through the Conservation Area, Kinsmen Park, the City’s Wishart Park and Crown property surrounding the provincial fish hatchery appealing to both novice and expert skiers. While skiers pay to use these trails in the winter and early spring, there is no charge to hikers the rest of the year.
Within the Highlands is Kinsmen Park 97 hectares (240 acres) of land maintained by the Kinsmen Club. The park includes one of the most spectacular views of the Crystal Falls from the Crystal Creek Trail. For visitor safety and to prevent further exposed tree root damage, a wheelchair accessible boardwalk was constructed beside the trail. Although each trail within the park highlights unique terrain the park also includes a baseball diamond, children’s playground, picnic area, and swimming area.’ (http://www.ssmrca.ca/recreation/hiawatha-highlands-conservation-area)
“We’re very fortunate to be able to come out here and use the trails at no charge, but we have to respect the fact that it’s private property.” shared Greenwood.
“They’ve been skiing out here for 60 years. There used to be the Landslide Ski hill out here too. The Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club have a lease agreement with the Conservation Authority, and Farmer Bob from Mockingbird Hill Farm owns the acreage where his barn and house are.” Mockingbird Hill Farm, the hobby farm that the irrepressible Farmer Bob operates, has a lease agreement with the conservation authority.
The Algoma Rod and Gun Club is also part of Hiawatha Highlands.
Greenwood said, “Thayer’s Acres, was owned by a local business man who was in the lumber business. The Thayer family owned the property for a number of generations. It was purchased by the Conservation Authority with the understanding that the Scouts (Scouts Canada) would have access to the property. Over the years, right up to the present time, scouting groups come out. So too, do the local cadets.”
The sugar shack and other spaces are widely used by many groups, including schools, church groups, and service clubs.
Check out the following link for information about the Hiawatha Highlands, Kinsmen Park, Thayers Acres, The Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club trails, The Voyageur Trail system, The Lookout, Red Pine, Crystal Creek, Beaver and Mable Lake Trails and more. (ontarioconservationareas.ca)
“When spring happens and the snow melts, the Connor Road area looks like a huge garbage dump. The bear proof garbage container is there, but still, the problem repeats itself every spring.
On November 23rd, there was evidence of a very recent bonfire in the Connor Rd. parking lot. The SSMRCA backhoe had recently taken care of the fire pit. “There were pallets used, so we have to be careful of any nails that end up in the debris.” shared Greenwood. Lovely. Just lovely.
“The snowmobile riders have a great spot here to unload. The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs have trails that they take care of.”
The intersections, where all of these groups meet at The Hiawatha Highlands, have conservation of this natural space as their roadmap.
Stewardship is everyone’s call to action. Not just for those of us exploring among the vegetation in the woods today, but for those who have yet to discover a spring fiddlehead, or an orchestral score of sounds, songbirds, and stillness; The forest explorers of the future are depending on us to be good stewards in the present time.
The old slogan, ‘Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute’, still has legs. It’s still as true today as it was in the 1970’s when it first soared into public consciousness. So whatever brainiac decided to dump a trailer load of asphalt shingles in November on Conservation Authority property, at Connor Rd., get with the programme. You totally failed at stewardship. Try harder.