A person hugging a giant tree

Considerate Camper: Keep our trees healthy

Welcome to our “Considerate Camper” series. These are posts with tips and reminders on how to keep our provincial parks clean and healthy. Already know how it’s done? Please share these posts along for less-experienced campers 🙂

We’re taking a leaf out of the Lorax’s book and speaking for the trees today!

When maintaining our campgrounds, we often notice marks in our trees. Many are from axes and nails, and plenty of trees have names, shapes and initials carved across their bark.

Did you know these holes and gouges risk the tree’s health and may result in its destruction?

Do axes and nails really hurt trees?

Girl with tree

Trees look huge when they’re towering over us, but they are actually a fragile part of our environment. Like us, they can get sick or be wounded.

Putting an axe, a nail, or any other sort of carving into a tree gets rid of its outer protective layer.

tree with carvings

When a person’s outer protective layer (skin) is injured, we clean the wound, apply antiseptic and cover with a bandaid. Dirty, open cuts leave us at greater risk for infection.

Like us, trees risk infection and disease when their protective layers are wounded.

A tree stump with the tree laying behind it
This tree was so sick that it had to be chopped down. You can see the protective layer covering the inside.

Nails are doubly concerning. Not only do they compromise the tree’s health, but they’re a danger to people.

Rusty nails can snag passing campers and staff. Worse, if our maintenance team ever need to chop the tree down from, say, damage due to markings, chainsaws running into nails are a huge hazard.

maintenance staff cutting down a tree
Andrew from Rideau River was very thankful that there were no nails in this tree.

Even taking the nail out of the tree is a risk. Once you remove a nail, the inside of the tree has a fairly deep hole in it. That’s really not helping it fight off infection.

So how can I hang my hammock/tarp without nails?

Use ropes or wide straps/belts instead. These work just as well and don’t harm the tree.

relaxing in a hammock

If you use a rope or strap, please take it home with you. Sometimes campers are trying to be helpful (because you really are the best!) and leave their ropes up for other campers.

Trouble is, when ropes get left behind (especially in the backcountry), the tree has to grow around them. And — you guessed it — this can make the tree sick too.

We’re serious about protecting our natural spaces

warden and staff beside op truck

Ontario has laws in place to protect our provincial parks.

In this case, if anyone unlawfully harms plant or tree, the penalty is — at minimum* — a $125.00 fine.

*Minimum fines do not include court costs or victim fine surcharges. Penalties for offenses under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006 can be as high as $50,000 and imprisonment for up to one year for a first offence, or $100,000 and imprisonment for up to two years if the offence was committed for commercial purposes.  

Please be kind to the trees

Forest Landscape
Thank you for helping us keep this beautiful forest intact for years to come!

Next time you consider swinging your axe or carving your initials on that pine or maple, remember: your actions could result in the tree’s destruction.

Help us protect Ontario’s natural spaces and keep our majestic trees healthy!