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Worst of the worst litter at Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks Provincial Park naturalist Yvette Bree has been inspiring visitors to appreciate its environmental significance for more than 30 years. This week, she’s pleading with visitors to stop littering and explains in a blog, the top three worst types of garbage.

Bree, in 2017, received the Ontario Parks Ecological Integrity Award, honouring her years of dedicated, passionate service.

“So many people just think of Sandbanks as ‘the beach,’ but there is so much more to the park,” she said. “Balancing environmental needs with recreational desires is an almost impossible task. The park’s rare, beautiful and fragile landscapes are the primary reason it is one of the busiest parks in Ontario, and exactly why ecological integrity is so important here.”

Worst of the Worst
By Yvette Bree
I consider myself lucky to work in a stunningly beautiful park. My job is to inspire visitors to appreciate the world around them and to encourage them to look after the environment, both here and at home.

This year, many of us have been asked to assist with other duties. Although I still have the opportunity to inspire visitors, some of my time has been dedicated to other tasks.

I pretty much wrote this blog in my head, amusing myself as I picked up litter on Dunes Beach. Except that I wasn’t amused. Sure, with thousands of visitors coming to Sandbanks, some litter is to be expected – food wrappings unexpectedly caught in the wind, a forgotten towel, a toy unknowingly dropped from an armful of belongings. But the large quantity of garbage left behind after a busy day at the beach is more than “accidental.”

The following is my own personal Top Three “worst of the worst” types of litter.

Third place: everything plastic. This of course includes one-use recyclables, but I was shocked at the items left behind that could – and should – be used more than once. Discount stores must be happy with the repeat business, but when did beach chairs and toys become a “one and done” purchase?

Second place: cigarette butts. Small but conspicuous, they seem to be everywhere. I must have picked up hundreds, very aware that they had been in someone’s mouth. They’re also full of thousands of toxins, including nicotine, formaldehyde, arsenic, ammonia and uranium, to name just a few. These poisonous chemicals leach into our soils and water and are ingested by animals, even sometimes by children.

Top spot: diapers – and not just for the obvious reason. These diapers have been littered by adults that are raising children, setting a poor example of respecting the environment around them. These children may grow up repeating the behaviours they learned. Which means that we will still be picking up far too much litter twenty years from now.

It’s time to break the cycle. Let’s show some respect – for each other, for park staff working hard to maintain our parks and for the beautiful landscapes around us.

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  1. EJP says:

    same on the Bruce Peninsula. Disgusting creatures. Heavy fines and zero tolerence would help I suspect.

  2. John says:

    This is ridiculous. I went to Sandbanks with my gf earlier this summer and loved the beach. Some kind of enforcement and heavy penalties need to be put in place for those littering and playing obnoxiously loud music. Preferably if you are found littering, then get slapped with a huge fine and get kicked out from the beach immediately. Maybe some kind of ban system as well.

    I’d hate for PEC beaches to become trashed like Wasaga or Sauble.

  3. Miq says:

    some kind of consequence to their action. Again at the same time frequent signs and reminders from neighbors and other guests should contjnue – I once saw a sign stating something like if a visitor or staff asks you to clean up, they have a point. Be a good citizen and clean up your trash. Its yours, nobody else’s.

    At least that offers some level of permission for another guest to insist that the littering group get their act together. It is as much our responsibility as it is the provinces and their stafgs responsibility.

  4. Marie Powell says:

    Angela, you hit the nail on the head. It’s about values and respect. And yes, we have absolutely been dealing with these issues long before COVID19. Many of us were taught not to trespass, litter, harass or otherwise encroach on other people’s rights. We were taught to think about how our behaviours would affect other people and the environment. We learned quickly because there were consequences! I don’t understand why the ‘powers that be’ are so reluctant to enforce the rules to the fullest degree. We will never need to worry about a shortage of visitors (unless they destroy the place in the process). Maybe getting rid of the jerks would make room for people who actually appreciate what we have.

  5. John says:

    we camped at sand banks again this year and it was bight and day compared to last year. This year it is obvious many don’t normally camp and are treating it like a party center… loud music lights and yelling well into the night, fire works music etc on the beaches, litter and general disregard towards those around. Did not help that it seems under staffed this year and bo patrolling and or stopping of the bad behavior on the beach or camp sites… unfortunately makes it hard to enjoy such a beautiful beach and camp site.

  6. Mark Burrowes says:

    I agree and think it’s terrible but a sign of the times or for better words humans raised in these times.
    I was raised to never toss garbage out , if I ever tossed a wrapper out of my dad’s car window I would have to not only pick it up but every other pc of waste for 19 miles!.
    I was a boater and use to go to Maine Duck island and the last time I went out I was amazed of the garbage laying around.. I haven’t been to the SandBanks in 15 years but I’m sad to hear that it’s happening there also.
    To many people raised today thinking it’s okay to do so.Come on folks don’t turn Canada’s beauty into a third world country’s landscape!!!

  7. angela says:

    Our tourists did not become rude litterbugs because of COVID-19. Those responsible for what we are seeing now were ill-manner clods long before the virus struck. Good manners and respect for others are becoming things of the past. At one time respect was taught in our schools. Teachers were respected authority figures not buddies. Once nudity and foul language were not found in virtually every movie and many TV shows. Violence was not glorified as it is today in movies, TV and computer games. Very little commands respect in today’s world. When the rules were relaxed, slowly we began to reap what we had sown. Why are we so surprised?

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    I believe that the public behaviour we have all experienced and witnessed at the Sandbanks and at various other locations around the County, is the same kind of behaviour that every school across Ontario could be experiencing in just a few weeks. If the parents are going to throw garbage, be aggressive and show generally bad manners, then just what makes anyone believe that their children will be any different? Our schools will need a lot more support than what has been offered to them so far. If the Sandbanks are any example of how the government reacts to a public health problem by downplaying it and underfunding it, then our kids and teachers are in trouble.

  9. Marie Powell says:

    Thank you, Michael Newman, for your comments. They moved me, and spoke truth to what is happening both in PEC and around the world. You’re right: we, as humans, don’t deserve what we have. We are born to a planet that is viewed by many as a resource to be consumed, with no thought to sustainability or ecological balance. I hope that everyone reads your comments and takes them to heart.

  10. Aleks says:

    Thank you Bree!

    “Solution: Anyone caught littering is given a one year ban from all Provincial parks”

    Good luck enforcing that… I think a more effective solution is shaming people when you see them doing it, even by picking up their garbage for them. And sensitizing people to the damage they’re doing, like Bree is.

  11. Francesco Di Lorenzo says:

    I leave in the County I have been coming to the Sandbanks Beach for many years the reason why I am writing this is because for the past 4 years the park is been getting all this people that the don’t care about the park
    My Family every time that we get there we go around picking up other people garbage
    From dirty diapers to empty bottles of water. We have approach some people why the don’t pick up their garbage what I get that is not my business and that’s why the have people working here
    Last long weekend I brought some friends to the park we where sitting down and people from Brampton came I have never seen such nice people at the park
    First the asked us if we mind them setting up their thing in front of us we said no and them the Sweet up garbage bags where they were I told the gentlemen thanks for keeping the park clean I wish everyone were like this people I could keep on writing but I dont think is going to matter

  12. John says:

    Can’t we just mark all license plates and have daily pickup at the end of the day where people will all get a charge on their credit card for littering. Good way to make everyone accountable and more people there will hold others accountable for littering where people caught can face a ban.

  13. Mark says:

    Hiring staff and enforcement at the Sandbanks Park is a provincial matter, not municipal.

  14. angela says:

    Excellent points Christopher and Oliver but how do we get such measures enforced? Masks are to be worn in all stores and business places and confined areas such as elevators. Recently at a town hall session with two of our councillors someone raised the point that some of our visitors are not following this directive. One councillor advised against any sort of confrontation and suggested we should stay out of their space if we can. It’s time measures were put in place to ensure that persons spotted in violation of this directive are told to don a mask or pay a fine. It would be unwise for one shopper to confront another as tempers could flare but the scofflaws should be confronted by bylaw enforcement officers or others in a position of authority. We tiptoe around the litterbugs, the vandals, and those who do not obey the mask rules and attempt to discourage them with gentle reprimands. We say there are hefty fines but rarely impose them. Vandals receive counselling and a tsk tsk instead of the punishment they deserve. Why make laws with no intention of actually enforcing them?

  15. Argyle says:

    It’s time to put a 2:00 dollar garbage surcharge on every vehicle entering the park. This will allow for hiring additional help, cleanup costs and disposal of the garbage left behind by park users. It’s obvious people are going to leave everything and anything behind they do not want to take home.

  16. Christopher Foster says:

    Solution: Anyone caught littering is given a one year ban from all Provincial parks. Second offence a lifetime ban. If people can’t follow the rules of basic decency and respect in society, they have no right to enjoy the privileges of society.

  17. Oliver says:

    I’ve been visiting Sandbanks since I can remember as a child and now with my wife and our own children. I’m 48 now and was there 1 time this summer. We Love that place aand it’s one of our yearly highlights.

    There is a simple solution to the negligence and ignorance. Sad to say it , BUT, people will not change unless they face consequences. To think otherwise is being Naive at best.

    Set a minimum fine of say $5000 or the maximum allowable by current laws.
    Hire a staff for the remainder of the summer or next summer to observe and ticket offenders. Photo or video evidence if allowed by current laws within the park is very easy to implement.
    Use the proceeds to directly cover the costs of staff.

    Of course the park Must be willing to Enforce or its just a waste of time and money.

    Once convicted and it becomes public record post on a board at the entrance(s) of the park the names of the offenders and the fines they have received. Also post online on the park website.

    People who don’t litter will be grateful and the litter bugs will either not visit again or clean up their act.

    Either way Sandbanks will NEVER have a shortage of visitors.

    If this sounds harsh and unachievable then I suggest park staff be resigned to the fact that it will not change and they will continue to spend their summers picking up plastic, cigarette butts and diapers and I’m sure that’s the short list.

    Unfortunately , its not a case of educating people of how littering is wrong and how it damages the ecology.
    Just look at our planet !!!

    Take a stand folks !

    All meant with admiration and respect

  18. Shannon says:

    My family and I just visited Sandbanks for the first
    time last month and found it to be a beautiful and peaceful retreat. I agree littering is the ultimate form of disrespect, not only for the environment but also for other visitors and park workers.
    We only visited the pet beach and always make a habit of surveying the grounds for litter having a new puppy who eats everything in sight! People who litter don’t realize how dangerous their garbage is to small animals and children who explore their surroundings.
    It doesn’t take much effort to clean up after yourselves!

  19. jerry says:

    Thank you for your work which is much sppreviated.Been to Sandbanks 3x now.I just came from a 3 nights camping at Richardson campground and I was upset to see how people lefh behind rope on trees,garbage on the ground etc which I’ve dispose properly.I think that can be added is a sign where to turn for the Richardson site when you’ve crossed the gate.
    Thks again for the good work and I shall camp there again

  20. Michael Newman says:

    With so few natural areas left, no one will have a clue as to how beautiful our planet is (was). It’s all disappearing at an alarming rate and most of those left to inheirit it don’t know what it is and don’t care. My apologies to those of you who do – but what an uphill battle you have on your hands. There is no where else to go and in spite of the distances, we all breath the same precious air, drink the same precious water. Humans are the infestation on this on this planet, we are the bad bacteria, we are the ‘intelligent’ ones f’ing it up due to the greed of the few. It’s so sad. It’s all so beautiful, and so unappreciated by the ignorant masses. Sorry for my rant – but we really don’t deserve what we have. So sad. My heart felt thanks to those like Yvette who actually put their money where their mouth is. You’re beautiful!! Thank you!!

  21. James says:

    I’m very grateful for all you do to protect that beautiful area. Might be time to start installing some wireless trail cameras so that fines can start being levied against these disposable people. If they can’t be bothered to clean up after themselves they can at least pay for those that will have have to do it for them.

  22. Azaeal says:

    Thank you Yvette for caring enough to clean up after the kind of people that ruin it for everyone else. Unfortunately there is no sense pleading with them to not do as they would just tell you where to go. Your blog and other stories have lured them to a beautiful clean place that needed some garbage. The one good thing is that it is 3 hours from Toronto so hopefully they won’t return as that is quite a distance to go to leave a mess.

  23. Marie Powell says:

    Thank you so much for your efforts and dedication, Yvette Bree, and for sharing your wisdom with all of us. You are appreciated.

  24. angela says:

    Thank you, Yvette, for all that you do. It must be disheartening to see abuse like this of a beautiful park. What is most amazing of all is that this sort of behaviour continues with little in place to stop it. There should be adequate staff to patrol the beach and stiff fines for those who litter. If more waste cans are needed they should be supplied. Does the county want or need visitors like this? If this is what it means to have tourism drive our county (and I do not believe it does) then we were far better off without it.

  25. Dennis Fox says:

    I would like to thank Yvette Bree for her dedication and hard work at the Sandbanks. However, this problem of garbage and litter is not hers to solve. The people who litter and pollute should be the ones doing the work of cleaning up after themselves – but we know that is not happening, not just this year but in every year. Why should any adult old enough to have and to make babies be allowed to think that someone will clean up “their” kid’s #$%%y diapers?

    As everyone points out – this is a “provincial” park, so why isn’t the province staffing their parks properly to enforce the basic rules? If they can’t staff it, then they have no business opening up their parks and inflicting the fallout onto the local population. This should not be a tough challenge to solve – charge enough to cover the cost of proper staffing levels – and educate the public on basic environmental maintenance and basic manners.

  26. Paul Bryans says:

    Unbelievable! Thanks Yvette for all the hard work you and other park staff do day in and day out. Picking up all that garbage should not be a daily job. Thanks for caring and thanks also for speaking up about this disgusting behavior. Same thing is unfortunately happening all over our beautiful county. I can’t
    understand how people can go to the parks because they are beautiful and then decide to leave their crap behind

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