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Garbage dumped; new Millennium Trail signs vandalized

Dave Robinet photos

Two speed limit signs recently installed along the Millennium Trail wetlands to better protect wildlife, have already been vandalized, and garbage is being left trailside.

The pair of 10-kilometre-an-hour signs had a large “x 5” spray painted in bright red beneath the number 10.

Dave Robinet, a local trail user and past president of the Rotary Club of Wellington states it’s an obvious – and illegal – act of opposition to the reduction from 50 km/h.

He first noticed the defaced signs on July 20 when he was repairing some ATV ruts on the 46-kilometre linear park, as well as picking up a bag of garbage that somebody had left behind.

“This is total disregard for nature and the well-being of the trail, not to mention criminal mischief,” said a disappointed Robinet. “We have a great community, don’t ruin it, or let others ruin it.”

The signs were installed on the trail at the beginning of June in the environmentally significant Slab Creek and Hubbs Creek wetlands. They were erected following a deputation to council by Amy Bodman and Dave Mowbray in February in support of the reduction of the speed limit through the wetlands. Both are members of the Trails Improvement Ad Hoc Committee.

“The Ad Hoc Committee and County staff recommended a bylaw change to 20 km/h through the provincially and regionally significant wetland sections, and 10 km/h where posted in order to protect wildlife and the habitats that support them,” said Bodman, who is also the Eco-advisor on the PEC Trails Board, the vice-president of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, a board member of the South Shore Joint Initiative and a member of the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory.

“A 10 km/h limit significantly reduces incidents of roadkill, and dust and noise pollution, all of which affect the functioning of the wetlands,” said Bodman, adding that Southern Ontario has lost over 73 per cent of its wetlands in the last 150 years.

“Wetlands play a huge role in maintaining our water supply, mitigating the effects of climate change, protecting biodiversity, and they are home to many species at risk.”

Councillor Ernie Margetson, in whose ward the signs were defaced, expressed disappointment while encouraging people to take pride in the community which includes the Millennium Trail.

“My response to minimize vandalism is to, collectively, as a community, condemn these acts, and to elevate pride of place, so that in public discourse, vandalism is seen as disgraceful,” said Margetson who cycles the trail “whenever I can, more-so since the upgrade has improved the surface.”

While Bodman is disappointed by the vandalism, she also understands it.

“The County is going through so many changes so rapidly and things are not as they were. Due to so many visitors, and so much more development, speed limits all across the County are being changed, and so much more regulation is having to take place in order to protect what has always existed. That means that people cannot do what they have always done, and that is upsetting.

“People who have lived here their whole lives and witnessed these changes feel that things are being taken away from them, and they are. They feel that the County has changed so much so quickly that it no longer resembles the place they grew up in. I get that.”

Bodman, who cycles, hikes and bird watches on the trail, goes on to add that protecting environmentally significant areas is important to keep the County functioning as it does.

“The wetlands and other sensitive habitats play a huge ecological role in allowing the County to function as it always has – a place that supports agriculture, massive bird, butterfly and bat migrations, a fishery – all of which are dependent on protecting the water supply and the ecological functioning of the habitats that support these industries and occurrences.”

Mowbray said that a public education strategy was supposed to have been implemented to get the word out as to why these areas should be protected.

“Unfortunately COVID-19 killed the education component of this initiative, but we need to get the info out there, so that people know why they have to slow down,” said Mowbray, who’s a member of the local snowmobile club, and a retired OPP officer, serving the last 17 of his 30-year career in the Prince Edward detachment. He’s also been involved with the trail as a snow groomer and with general maintenance.

Mowbray, an avid ATVer, said he was disappointed by the act of vandalism, especially since it’s such a small percentage of people that have an issue.

“It upset me as a citizen, as a member of the Ad Hoc Committee, and as somebody who has put in a lot of work on the Millennium Trail. It’s really only 10 per cent of ATVers – or less – that are dead set against this change. The majority are just fine.”

“All users of the trail I’ve spoken to – no matter how they use it – comment on the incredibly beautiful landscape it travels through,” agreed Bodman. “I really feel that the speed reductions that will protect the wetlands and the natural heritage of the trail will help protect the natural heritage of the entire County.”

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