Transcript: COVD-19's Toll on Nature in Ontario | Feb 26, 2021

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Can Ontario parks handle more visitors? Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

A wall screen behind him reads "Ontario Hubs."

Jeyan says DURING THE EXTENDED LOCKDOWNS AND CLOSURES CAUSED BY COVID-19, GETTING OUT INTO NATURE HAS BEEN ONE BRIGHT SPOT FOR MANY. BUT IT'S FAR LESS CLEAR THAT IT'S BEEN SO GREAT FOR THE NATURAL WORLD. MARY BAXTER COVERS THE SOUTHWESTERN PART OF THE PROVINCE FOR OUR ONTARIO HUBS. SHE JOINS US NOW FROM LONDON WITH THAT STORY.

Mary is in her forties, with shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She's wearing a black blazer.

Jeyan continues WELCOME.

Mary says HI, JEYAN.

Jeyan says MARY, A LOT OF ADVICE FROM PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS HAS BEEN TO GET OUTSIDE, NOT JUST FOR YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH BUT FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH. DO WE HAVE AN IDEA OF HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE TAKEN THAT ADVICE AND VISITED, SAY, PARKS AND CONSERVATION AREAS?

The caption changes to "Mary Baxter. Southwestern Ontario Hub Journalist."
Then, it changes again to "Everybody go outside."

Mary says WELL, MOST OF THE ORGANIZATIONS THAT I'VE TALKED TO ARE MENTIONING THAT THEY'RE SEEING JUST A HUGE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE VISITING. SO, FOR INSTANCE, THE BRUCE TRAIL CONSERVANCY, THE BRUCE TRAIL RUNS FROM THE NIAGARA REGION TO THE TIP OF THE BRUCE PENINSULA, THEY SAY IN CERTAIN POINTS THEY'RE SEEING MAYBE AROUND 50 percent INCREASE IN VISITORS. SO THAT'S LIKE IN AREAS AROUND THE GTA AND OUTSIDE OF HAMILTON, IN THE BEAVER VALLEY, AND RIGHT UP ON THE PENINSULA AS WELL.

Jeyan says NOW, I WANT TO BRING UP SOME PHOTOS FROM ONE OF YOUR LATEST ADVENTURES TO ILLUSTRATE SORT OF THE IMPACT OF PEOPLE HEADING OUT INTO NATURE. I WANT TO PULL UP THIS FIRST PHOTO. THIS IS SOMETHING I'M SURE A LOT OF PEOPLE PROBABLY ARE SEEING WHEN THEY'RE HEADING OUT TO THESE TRAILS, IS A LINE OF CARS. TELL US ABOUT THIS ONE.

A picture shows a person standing in the snow, holding up a road sign. A long line of cars can be seen along a road stretching away from the person.

Mary says WELL, THIS ONE WAS TAKEN IN SOUTHEAST LONDON AT AN AREA THAT'S CALLED MEADOWLILY. THERE'S ACTUALLY TWO... THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT AREAS PEOPLE CAN ACCESS HERE. ONE IS AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SIGNIFICANT AREA THAT THE CITY OWNS, AND THEN THE OTHER IS A NATURE PRESERVE THAT IS OWNED BY THE THAMES TALBOT LAND TRUST. AND WHAT'S REALLY INTERESTING HERE IS IT LOOKS BUSY, OKAY, MAYBE THAT'S OKAY FOR A WEEKEND. BUT I TOOK THIS ON A TUESDAY AFTERNOON, LIKE EARLY IN THE AFTERNOON, JUST A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO.

Jeyan says I WANT TO PULL UP A SECOND PHOTO HERE. THIS PHOTO LOOKS LIKE A TRAIL COVERED IN SNOW. NOTHING WRONG HERE. WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT?

A picture shows a trail of footsteps in the snow.

The caption changes to "Mary Baxter, @MaryBWord."

Mary says OKAY, AGAIN, YOU'RE SEEING THE TRAIL GOING ALONG. YOU'RE SEEING WHERE PEOPLE'S FOOTSTEPS HAVE MADE THE TRAIL AND MAKE IT FAIRLY CLEAR. BUT IF YOU LOOK OVER A LITTLE BIT OFF OF THE TRAIL, YOU'LL SEE THESE OTHER FOOTSTEPS WHERE IT'S PEOPLE THAT HAVE WALKED OFF THE TRAIL FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER. AND WITH DOING THINGS LIKE THAT OR YOUR PETS OFF THE LEASH AND RUNNING AROUND IN THE FOREST, THERE'S REAL ISSUES WITH THINGS LIKE TRAMPLING THE NATIVE PLANTS THAT ARE THERE OR PERHAPS EVEN SPREADING NATIVE SPECIES OR SCARING SOME OF THE WILDLIFE.

Jeyan says I WANT TO BRING UP THE THIRD PHOTO, AND I'VE GOT TO BE HONEST, MARY, THIS IS SOMETHING WHEN I WAS OUT IN THE SUMMER GOING ON TRAILS, THIS IS WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR. IT'S A SIGN AND IT SHOWS WHERE THE NEAREST WASHROOM IS. HAVE WASHROOMS BEEN AN ISSUE?

A picture shows a sign indicating the direction of washrooms.

Mary says WASHROOMS HAVE BEEN AN ISSUE IN CERTAIN AREAS FOR SURE BECAUSE WE'RE IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC. THAT MEANS FOR SOME OF THESE AREAS THEY MIGHT PUT IN PORT-A-POTTIES FOR INSTANCE OR THEY MIGHT HAVE WASHROOM FACILITIES BUT THEY REALLY LACK THE STAFF TO KEEP THOSE WASHROOMS UP TO WHAT'S NEEDED IN TERMS OF THE PANDEMIC RIGHT NOW. SO IT COULD MEAN, YOU KNOW, HEADING OUT TO A TRAIL AND FINDING THAT THERE IS NO WASHROOM ACCESS OR YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO WALK A REALLY LONG WAY.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Jeyan says I WANT TO SHOW SOME MORE PHOTOS. THESE ARE PHOTOS OF THE NATURAL HABITAT HERE IN ONTARIO. BUT I DO WANT TO ASK YOU: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PROTECT THESE SPECIES?

A picture shows tiny blooms coming from the soil. Another picture shows patterned brown birds with long pointy beaks standing in grass. A third picture shows green leaves emerging from the soil folded.

The caption changes to "How to protect habitat."

Mary says WELL, THESE AREAS ARE WHERE A LOT OF OUR NATIVE SPECIES ARE LIVING. THEY PROTECT NATIVE PLANTS. SOME OF THE PICTURES WE'RE GOING TO BE SEEING ARE OF WILD LEEK, WILD GINGER, FOR INSTANCE, OR THE PICTURE THAT'S UP NOW IS THE AMERICAN WOODCOCK. THESE ARE THE AREAS THAT PROTECT THESE PLANTS AND WILDLIFE, AND THEY'RE REALLY IMPORTANT BECAUSE HERE IN ONTARIO, AND PARTICULARLY IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO, WE HAVEN'T GOT A LOT OF FOREST COVER LEFT. I THINK IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO, IT'S MAYBE ROUGHLY AROUND 25 percent FOREST COVER OR EVEN LESS, WHICH IS NOT CONSIDERED TO BE ACTUALLY GREAT PERCENTAGE FOR SUPPORTING SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLES.

Mary says YOU KNOW, WE SEE THE PHOTO OF THE TRAIL COVERED AND PEOPLE GOING OFF. BUT I HAVE TO ASK, IS IT POSSIBLE FOR THESE AREAS TO JUST BOUNCE BACK AS WE HEAD INTO SPRING?

Mary says WELL, A LOT OF THE CONSERVATIONISTS ARE WORRIED ABOUT WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN IN SPRING. RIGHT NOW THERE IS A BIT OF A SNOWPACK. BUT GETTING INTO SPRING, THAT'S WHEN PLANTS ARE STARTING TO GERMINATE, SO... AND THINGS GET PRETTY MUCKY OUT THERE ON THE TRAILS, SO PEOPLE HAVE MORE OF A TENDENCY TO WALK OFF THE TRAIL TO AVOID SOME OF THAT, AND SO THE CONCERN ABOUT SPREADING INVASIVE SPECIES AND TRAMPLING ON WHAT'S THERE ARE, YOU KNOW, THAT MUCH LARGER AT THAT POINT IN TIME. AND ALSO WE HAVE SOME GROUND NESTING BIRDS AS WE SAW WITH THE AMERICAN WOODCOCK, IT'S A GROUND NESTING BIRD. SO AGAIN THERE'S CONCERNS OF PETS ARE OFF THEIR LEASH SCARING THESE BIRDS AT A VERY IMPORTANT TIME IN THEIR SEASON.

Jeyan says NOW, MARY, I KNOW FOR YOUR LATEST FOR TVO.org, YOU SPOKE TO CONSERVATION OFFICIALS. THEY TOLD YOU THERE ARE SOME STORIES OUT THERE ABOUT BEING PREPARED FOR HEADING OUT TO THESE TERRAINS AND PARKS AS WELL.

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. London. Nature is reeling: What happens when more Ontarians head outdoors? By Mary Baxter.

Mary says SURE. I'VE HEARD SOME ANECDOTAL ACCOUNTS THAT I HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO VERIFY, SO I CAN'T REALLY TALK ABOUT THEM. BUT ONE THAT I FOUND KIND OF INTERESTING HAPPENED EARLIER THIS WEEK WHEN A PAIR OF HIKERS HAD TO BE RESCUED FROM ICE THAT HAD BROKEN OFF A SHORELINE JUST OFF OF THE BRUCE PENINSULA, AND THEY WERE, YOU KNOW, QUITE A WAYS INTO GEORGIAN BAY. SO THESE ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES, WHEN PEOPLE AREN'T FAMILIAR WITH THE TERRAIN.

Jeyan says LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT. PRECAUTIONS. YOU KNOW, AS WE HEAD INTO WARMER WEATHER HERE, WE'RE TEASED HERE IN SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO AND TORONTO WITH THE 5 degrees. BUT AS WE START GETTING INTO WARMER WEATHER, WHAT SHOULD WE BE TAKING INTO ACCOUNT AS WE VISIT THESE GREENSPACES?

Mary says WELL, I THINK, FIRST OFF, BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT, CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC HEALTH UNIT TO SEE IF THEY ARE RECOMMENDING THAT YOU... OR IF THEY THINK THAT YOU'RE ALLOWED OR SHOULD BE TRAVELLING OUTSIDE OF YOUR ZONE, YOUR CONTROL ZONE AT THIS POINT. THEY CAN ALSO OFFER YOU TIPS ON HOW TO SOCIALLY DISTANCE WHEN YOU'RE IN THE WILD BECAUSE THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE ON THE TRAILS. THE OTHER THING THAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO DO IS TO VISIT WEB SITES SUCH AS ONTARIO PARKS OR THE MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND FORESTRY OR THE ONTARIO ENVIRONMENT, CONSERVATION AND PARKS WEB SITES. THEY HAVE LOTS OF TIPS ON HOW TO LEAVE A VERY LIGHT FOOTPRINT WHEN YOU'RE OUT THERE IN THE WILD. AND THEN WHEN YOU GET TO THE TRAIL, JUST REMEMBER TO STICK TO THE TRAIL AND THEN ALSO TO KEEP YOUR PET ON A LEASH. AND I THINK THE BIGGEST THING IS TO ENJOY YOURSELF. EVERYBODY IS REALLY EXCITED THAT PEOPLE ARE GETTING IN TOUCH WITH NATURE, AND IT'S NOT... LIKE, THESE CONSERVATIONISTS DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO COME, THEY DO. THEY JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU STICK TO THE TRAIL AND KEEP YOUR PET ON A LEASH.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says THAT'S VERY GOOD ADVICE. I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH, MARY BAXTER. THAT'S MARY BAXTER, OUR SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO HUB JOURNALIST.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: COVD-19's Toll on Nature in Ontario