6 ways to be the best park neighbour

Provincial parks are not islands.

Well, some of them are. What we mean is: there is no invisible wall around parks limiting their relationships with the outside world.

Even if you never visit a park, you benefit from the pollinator diversity they protect, the CO2 they sequester in wood, roots, and peat, and the clean water filtered by protected wetlands.

Plants, animals, fungi, microbes, water, and air move in and out of protected spaces, with intimate connections on both local and global levels.

In the same way, things that happen outside of park boundaries affect the ecosystems within them. What you do at home, work, or play can impact our parks.

Whether you live next door to a park or 100 km away, here are six ways your everyday actions can help keep parks and nature reserves healthy and biodiverse:

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Do the skies need our protection?

Stars as seen in midnight’s gaze
Stars shining upon shoreline’s haze
Guiding us, teaching us with stories manifold
About ourselves, stars speak, from birth till old.
Their permanence ties us to days gone by
But to hide their secrets, they still do try
To gaze upon them brings dreams of futures bright
But to see them vanish, is to lose much delight.

~Bruce Waters

At Ontario Parks, we’re committed to the protection and preservation of our province’s biodiversity. The night skies in their natural splendour are an important part of that protection.

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The galaxies: a partially solved mystery – part 2

In our previous discussion on galaxies, we briefly described how we came to understand galaxies as unique oases of stars amidst the vast cosmic desert.

Now, we will embark on a journey to discover the origin and composition of galaxies and their diversity as well as a further understanding of our own galaxy — the “Milky Way.”

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Eyes on the skies – January

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the Skies” series. This “space” will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.

The cold, crisp days of the New Year often reward us with fantastically beautiful nights, rich with bright stars and interesting sights.

Of the 17 brightest stars seen from Ontario, nine are visible during winter nights, and many interesting objects await the observer who is prepared to brave the cold.

Here are our astronomical highlights for January:

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Preserving international dark skies at Quetico

Today’s post comes from Chris Stromberg, Acting Backcountry Operations Specialist at Quetico Provincial Park and Coordinator for the Heart of the Continent Partnership.

This past July, four teams of Ontario Parks and US Forest Service wilderness rangers / park wardens went into the woods to observe the nights of the new moon.

Along with their usual assignments of ensuring compliance, clearing portages, restoring campsites, and acting as park/forest ambassadors, they were out collecting sky quality metre (SQM) readings during the darkest hours of the evening.

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The long road to Lake Superior Provincial Park’s Dark Sky Preserve

Today’s post comes from Charlotte Westcott, a Discovery Program staff member at Lake Superior Provincial Park.

As the sun sets, the stars begin to appear. Like old friends, their familiar glow brings us home no matter how far away our house may be. Our friendly acquaintances, the constellations, trace their way across the sky. The white glow of the Milky Way emerges slowly to drown out its fainter neighbours.

Far away from the light pollution of major cities, Lake Superior Provincial Park’s night sky is one of the darkest in North America.

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Zodiacal light and the gegenschein

The importance of having dark sky preserves cannot be understated.

In addition to the many benefits already described previously in our blog, you can see many things that others can’t from the light-polluted skies of our urban and, increasingly, our rural locations.

The zodiacal light and the gegenschein are two phenomena known for centuries, but only visible in dark skies with a good western or eastern horizon.

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