Muskoka Conservancy and cannabis producer Muskoka Grown have teamed up once again to host a clean-up at the Upjohn Nature Reserve in Bracebridge as part of National Clean-Up Day, an event coordinated alongside World Clean-Up Day that sees people across the globe working together to pick up litter and clean the environment.
Last year, a Muskoka Grown employee raised the idea of participating in Clean-Up Day, and after a successful first year running the event, the team decided to expand on the idea by organizing two clean-ups in Toronto and four in Manitoba, along with the Muskoka event held once again at Upjohn. The local clean-up will run from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18. Volunteers must be 19 or over and should remember to dress for the weather and wear appropriate footwear. Registration will be open until Friday morning or until the event reaches its capacity of 50 volunteers. Garbage bags and gloves will be supplied, and masks are encouraged but not mandatory as the clean-up is outside and volunteers will be physically distanced, according to event organizers.
Andrea Grand, director of marketing for Muskoka Grown, said last year’s event was great and included about 15 to 20 participants collecting garbage and trimming back trails. This year, they’re hoping to attract more volunteers while still adhering to COVID-related guidelines.
“We want to make sure that we’re always positively contributing to our natural surroundings,” Grand said. “Clean-Up Day was a wonderful opportunity for not only the Muskoka Grown team, but for us to partner with like-minded companies or businesses in the region to get back out onto the trails and make sure that we are preserving them for future generations.”
Grand said that because green spaces have become a way for people to escape the confines of quarantine and connect in the weird year that is 2020, it’s that much more important to give back and make sure parks and nature reserves are properly maintained. A number of studies have found that most littering happens within five metres of a waste bin, so simply taking a walk and picking up litter at a local park can make a world of difference, she said.
“Muskoka is home to over 1,500 freshwater lakes, we have a national park and 11 provincial parks, and thousands of kilometres of shoreline and trails,” she said. “I think for us to be able to preserve not only the physical environment but also all of the animals that call that home, we want to make sure that our trails and our waterways continue to be cleaned on a regular basis.”
To that end, if their event does reach capacity, Grand said they’re happy to provide supplies for people in Muskoka to organize their own clean-ups. Part of the reason they chose to have the Bracebridge event on Friday, a day earlier than the actual National Clean-Up Day on Sept. 19, is so that they can spread the word about the movement and get people outside of the event involved in cleaning the environment.
“We’re using Friday to really get that message out there as well about Clean-Up Day happening the next day because part and parcel with organizing our own [clean-up], we’re also heavily encouraging people to get out there themselves,” Grand said. “Even if it’s just picking up one piece of garbage or recycling and disposing of it correctly, there’s a lot of good that we could all do together.”
Aaron Rusak, land stewardship coordinator at Muskoka Conservancy, said they’re excited to co-host the clean-up because they’re always happy to engage with the community in whatever way they can.
“It’s a really great opportunity to come learn a little bit more about some of the natural areas in Muskoka, to learn a little bit more about the conservancy, and to clean up some roadways,” Rusak said. “It’s a really good option to investigate parts of Muskoka that you might not have looked at before because Upjohn is a little bit off the beaten path.”
Upjohn Nature Reserve is a 114-acre property in Bracebridge that includes wetlands and forested areas, which support an array of songbirds, amphibians and other wildlife. It’s a good fit for the Clean-Up Day event, Rusak said, because it has public trails as well as a portion of the reserve that runs along South Monck Drive and Nichols Road. The areas along the roadway have become an unofficial dumping site, so while the increase in visitors hasn’t led to more garbage on the trails, the regular occurrence of roadside garbage remains a problem, he said.
Rusak hopes the clean-up will inspire locals to get out into nature and to learn more about its preservation. Though some people confuse them for a Conservation Authority, the Muskoka Conservancy is actually a land trust, meaning they monitor, maintain and protect nature reserves and conservation easements that have been donated or placed under their control. The properties under their protection will be kept in their natural state permanently, Rusak said, and events like National Clean-Up Day help them to do so.
“We do have about two and a half kilometres of public trails [at Upjohn] and we’ve seen more people using them this year, but we’d love to have as many people using them as possible because we really want to connect the general populace with what it is we do and, and that is land protection,” he said. “We want to get people out onto the land and see why protecting that is so important.”
To participate in the clean-up at Upjohn Nature Reserve, visit the Muskoka Grown website to register. To inquire about accommodations, or for other event-related questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.