Vandals fined for damaging Quetico tree

A Toronto man and his son have been fined for defacing an ancient tree in Quetico Provincial Park.

Oleh Gadacz and his son, Marco, were fined a total of $2,575 for burning the names of family members into a 250-year-old red pine in the park last summer. An investigator used the names on the tree and park visitor registrations to lay charges against the father and son.

A pure stand of large red pines at the east end of Quetico dates back to about 1750. The trees have played a role in long-term climate research and there have been a number of projects over the years to protect them. Among other things, local volunteers helped remove brush piles to reduce the fire hazard — and volunteers from the UK worked to establish long-term succession plots. Seeds from the trees also serve to re-stock the forest.

Park visitors receive a brochure when they enter the park, explaining that it’s against the law to remove, cut or damage vegetation or trees. Damaging tree bark can lead to insect damage and potentially, the death of the tree.

In addition to being fined for vandalism, Marco Gadacz has been banned from the park for one year and his father was fined $125 for not paying the adult park fee for his two sons, who were over the age of 18.

Neither man appeared in court for the June 7th trial in Atikokan. $1500 of the fine will be contributed to the Quetico Foundation.

14 thoughts on “Vandals fined for damaging Quetico tree”

  1. I am happy to see that these people were caught! I encourage Ontario Parks to more actively persue prosecution of criminals who would dare to destroy the most beautiful things our country has to offer. Shame on these men. I would have banned them for life and ordered them to plant trees as community service.

  2. Good! I’m glad to hear that people are being held accountable for such unacceptable behaviour towards nature.

  3. Our blog article about the defacing of a tree in Quetico prompted passionate response from some readers of the Ontario Parks blog, including some responses we chose not to publish.

    Our aim in publishing the article was to educate. People who deface our provincial parks aren’t necessarily bad people. They simply may not have stopped to consider the impact of their actions. What if every visitor decided to leave an “I was here” message on a tree? How many times have you walked past a tree trunk that had somebody’s initials carved on it? Or seen a rock face with spray-painted messages left behind by a previous visitor? Have you ever broken a dead limb off a tree, for your campfire? Or cut a new trail in an area that already has a well-marked trail? Actions like these all have an impact on the environment within our parks and other natural areas.

    Today, we emphasize preserving Ontario’s wilderness – in its natural state. Dead tree branches are not firewood – they’re part of the natural habitat and may provide shelter for wildlife before they decay, offering nutrients back to the forest. A rock face is not a billboard for graffiti. And tree trunks are not personal message-boards.

    So, when you visit a provincial park, conservation reserve or other wilderness area, don’t remove, deface or destroy anything you find there. It’s against the law, for a reason. And when you leave, take with you everything you brought. In other words, “leave no trace.”

  4. I guess I could start by saying yes I have used fallen tryy limbs for the fire. That was a few years ago and many camping trips. You don’t realize how beautiful our parks systems are until you’ve spent too many hours in traffic. Unfortunately people have less and less respect these days. I guess this will send a message to all the city slickers who don’t think before they act.

  5. I have traversed beautiful Quetico Park since 1969 and again this spring. I have fostered many, many different crews to partake in the beauty, including teenage Scouts and adults of various types. One of the fundamental principles I teach is “make no disturbance…move nothing…kick nothing…even trek in silence”. Become “one” with the natural rhythms of the wilderness. Avoid making fires and if you ‘need’ one, make it very small from small driftwood and even avoid disturbing deadfalls. Leave no trace of our passing. Leave our “urban” selves behind. Submit our selves to Mother Nature and accept her terms. This blazen violation of the honored traditions and principles of all of us who care and understand the Anishanabe-way, is saddening, depressing and maddening. Let us be a voice to help teach the way of the wild, and to be stewards of this fragile environment.

  6. The problem is that in the parks the staff/wardens are not doing the teaching/enforecement required to ensure that all users of the park understand the impact. In particular the contract park wardens do not do this even though it is drawn to their attention. Some of them are very young, having to deal with an adult who is much his/her senior but that is only part. If Ontario Parks are going to contract out services then the enforcement and understanding of why the rules are in place, must begin with teaching/reinforcing the importance of this to the staff who represent Ontario Parks. Very discouraging for long time parks users to see the staff not educating/enforcing if necessary.

    We have suggested many times that copies of the rules/regulations should be printed in several languages and have campers read and sign that they understand them at registration.

  7. I fell they got off far too lightly… I would have had them plant 100 new saplings to offset the damage they caused.

  8. Though this may not be popular opinion, I think ‘Leave No Trace’ camping is somewhat unrealistic and out of balance. In no way am I defending the rash and foolish actions of those who would burn their name into an old and valuable tree. That is an action which deserves consequence and it’s a good thing that they received such.

    However, like any movement, the Leave-No-Trace mantra has its zealots, and this incident is merely being used to exemplify the extremity of that sort of thinking. Surpressing our humanity as parcel to camping, canoeing and hiking is merely an over-correction for years of ecologic irresponsibility. We need to find sustainability that acknowledges the positives of human-environment interaction, and, within reason, accept that a shallow, ghostly footprint is much more realistic than none, given our tendencies as a species. The big example is campfires, perhaps the cornerstone of human enjoyment in the wild, especially at night. It’s nonsense to try and take this out of backwoods culture.

    Moreover, as a student of history, I happen to enjoy seeing (older) evidence of human presence, here and there throughout various parks, as do others. This is evidenced by the popularity and marketing of the abandoned Barkley Estate as a destination for curious canoers in Algonquin. Our past societies and their relics are equally as interesting as a tree, regardless of its age and importance.

    Wanton destruction of the natural world is thoughtless cruelty, but total submission to nature denies the intrinsic value of ourselves as the exploratory constituents of the backbush. Our interest and mild impact keeps the Parks in business. Better to have people using parks formally than miles of unregulated territory being used haphazardly. To do this, you have to save the trees AND the campfires. Perhaps this is the balance point we could use to ensure enough interest in the natural world, such that we keep the Parks Staff of the province employed.

  9. I have been visiting Quetico for over three decades. I am pleased that someone felt passionate enough to follow through and report the damage. This damage was visible. Sadly, other damage happens in less visible ways and over time. I have seen sites closed due to being “brushed” out, small twisted pines on Jesse that resembled Bonsai, hacked down for firewood, garbage left on portages, etc…. Quetico and other parks are a legacy, handed to us for a short period for us to steward. They can not be rebuilt or recreated. Education is one way we can begin to change the behaviours. I agree with the others, fines are not enough and the ban too short.

    These three would have learned much more by having to plant 250 trees in a remote area, or by having to take a course (s) on ecology, wilderness camping, forest stewardship, watershed management, etc…
    It is easy to put your hand in your pocket and say you are sorry, nothing learned. The real education regarding their actions should come by experiential learning, from repairing the damage, doing community service, educating others.

    I wonder what the impact would be if visitors to these wildreness treasures had to go through a mandatory education session before being issued a park permit and heading out on their trip.
    The good message from this story is that people are taking action. Hats off to those of you who take the time to care.


  10. In response to Doug Ironside: I don’t think that the leave-no-trace philosophy is relevant in a regulated park, where campsites, portages, etc. are well established. It makes more sense to use these established features than to keep creating new ones, particularly with respect to campfire pits. If these were not in place, and used, careless or unknowing people would build fires in less optimal locations with a danger of starting a forest fire.

    No-trace refers to true wilderness locations (probably Crown land, not parks, in many parts of Ontario). If campsites and other facilities are not established, we should try to literally leave no trace as we pass through. This is not to deny the presence or influence of humans, it is to show utmost respect for the natural environment.

    By the way, I’ll certainly agree with you regarding historic sites. The Barclay Estate is an example of a site which should be maintained. I’d like to see a historic plaque or two, with old pictures, if available. It should not just revert to wilderness. It is a link to the past.

  11. O man! That hurts. I felt for the tree! I recommend to include a dozen saplings planting be included in the punishment.

  12. you all have too much time on your hands……….some vandals got caught and were appropriately disciplined. END OF STORY

  13. Way to go, keep up the great enforcement! I would love to see charges like this for defacing any park tree, not just the old ones.

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