Conservation use up; enforcement required
Public visits conservation areas more during pandemic
ABCA contracts company to enforce rules at conservation authority properties
Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) properties have seen a dramatic increase in visitors during the pandemic. “People are looking for places to exercise, to safely spend time with others, and to enjoy the many benefits of spending time in nature,” said land manager Kate Monk.
“We’re not alone,” she said. “Conservation areas throughout southern Ontario have seen increased use.”
Two of the biggest unauthorized uses of ABCA properties are off-road vehicles and dogs off leash. The past year has also seen an increase in litter and garbage. “Dogs must be on a leash and under control at all times,” Monk said. “Off-road vehicles, such as quads and dirt bikes, are prohibited from all of our properties.”
Authorized uses are posted on signs at conservation area entrances and listed on the parks and recreation page on the conservation authority’s website Parks and Recreation page.
People can call ABCA at 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610 and speak to a staff person if they are unsure about an activity.
Since the 1990s, ABCA has had patrol officers to educate visitors and enforce the rules. In 2020, ABCA hired Municipal Enforcement Unit (MEU) to provide these services. This company provides municipal and provincial enforcement across multiple regions in Southwestern Ontario. With the hiring of MEU, ABCA has the ability to enforce both ABCA and provincial legislation. Municipal Enforcement Unit officers are appointed by the ABCA to conduct these enforcements and may be contacted with concerns or requests for service at 1-855-900-9119.
Section 29 of the Conservation Authorities Act and Trespass to Property Act (engage in a prohibited activity) are the two pieces of legislation most commonly used to enforce the rules.
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry also enforces provincial regulations on ABCA lands. With the combination of these services (MEU, MNRF, and ABCA), rules and regulations can be enforced and appropriate action will be taken. As with all public spaces, people are responsible and liable for their own conduct and the behavior of their pets. This includes keeping dogs on leashes and maintaining complete control at all times.
ABCA has acquired 9,000 acres of natural areas over the past 75 years. Public access to these green spaces is an important secondary use, according to Monk. Regulations and rules are in place to protect the local environment as well as visitors and their pets.
For more information on ABCA properties, including conservation area brochures and trail maps, please visit abca.ca/recreation or call 1-888-286-2610.