Parks Canada asking people to clean up their act in P.E.I. National Park

Parks Canada is asking that visitors clean up their act while visiting P.E.I. National Park.

This summer, employees have noticed an increase in bad behaviour among some visitors.

Staff say they're seeing a higher number of dogs on the beach, people speeding and parking on the roadside and people leaving garbage on the beaches.

"There's a lot more littering than we've experienced in the past," said Emily Gallant, a janitorial student in the P.E.I. National Park.

"That was always a part of our job, we love to keep the park clean that's what we're here for. But there is a lot more litter on the beaches."

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

Gallant said she often finds lots of cans, food waste and bags full of garbage.

And it's not just litter that people are leaving behind.

At one of the areas, Ross Lane, the facilities have been closed because of COVID-19. That means the washrooms at that site are closed, said Tara McNally MacPhee, the visitor experience manager for the P.E.I. National Park.

"Unfortunately we did find that folks are relieving themselves behind the closed washroom buildings rather than using other facilities," said McNally MacPhee.

"I'm sure it's only one or two people but it certainly creates an uncomfortable situation for our staff, but other visitors as well."

We want everything to look perfect and that's, you know, our pride and joy is this park. — Emily Gallant, Parks Canada

Both Covehead and Stanhope are nearby to Ross Lane.

McNally MacPhee said she thinks the main reason they're noticing an uptick in bad behaviour is that the COVID-19 pandemic is encouraging more people from P.E.I. and Atlantic Canada to explore parts of the Island they might not normally go to.

"A lot of these people may be unfamiliar with the rules and regulations that are in place and perhaps don't know what kind of behaviour is expected of them when they're visiting a national park," she said.

COVID-19 regulations

When the park gets busy, staff are also noticing that some people aren't adhering to the public health measures, like physical distancing, as well as they could be.

"It's almost like people forget that we're in the middle of a global pandemic, which is understandable sometimes, when we're out in nature and we're taking advantage of the same kinds of things that we've enjoyed in previous years," she said.

With all the extra cleaning that is required because of COVID-19, staff find themselves stretched thin, and having to pick up after more people is creating even more work.

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

"We feel sometimes we can't get to that litter as fast as we want to. And that really, it's an emotional impact too because we want everything to look perfect and that's, you know, our pride and joy is this park," said Gallant

And this year when staff approach people who aren't obeying the rules, they are getting more negative reactions.

"Compliance staff are reporting fewer positive interactions with visitors this season, as compared with previous and typical years of operation," a spokesperson for Parks Canada said in an email.

For those who are caught disobeying the rules, be it speeding, littering or relieving themselves in areas where they aren't supposed to, they can face steep fines.

If Islanders are planning a trip to P.E.I. National Park in the coming weeks, staff are asking they leave the park in the same condition they found it.

"We want people to treat it as their Island, that these are their beaches," Gallant said.

"We're all here for the same reason and that's to keep our province as beautiful as it really is."

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