Shopping carts, tires, a bed, broken tiles and car parts – everything but the kitchen sink! These were amongst the 1,218 kg of garbage and 220 kg of recycling – a whopping 1,428 kg in total – removed from the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve in southwestern Ontario this summer by Wildlife Preservation Canada. Illegal dumping remains an ongoing problem at the City of Windsor’s only provincial park. Although much of the waste removed by WPC appears to have been dumped years ago, the problem persists. During the week of the cleanup, WPC’s field crew found a large broken window and more trash dumped overnight. This protected natural area – soon to be part of Canada’s second National Urban Park – is sadly being treated by some as a landfill.

Tallgrass prairie is one of Canada’s rarest ecosystems. With the majority of its historic range already gone, one of Ontario’s last and largest remnants is found at the Ojibway Prairie Complex and Greater Park Ecosystem in Windsor and LaSalle. This area supports thousands of wildlife species, including over 160 species of provincially rare plants and animals – 50 of which are species at risk. Even more, the deep roots of prairie ecosystems sequester carbon, prevent soil erosion, filter rainwater, and reduce flooding. The nearby Ojibway Nature Centre and walking trails are a popular destination, seeing an estimated 100,000 visitors per year. Grassland ecosystems are of immeasurable value – environmentally, economically, and culturally – and much will be lost if our Ojibway Prairie, and other natural habitat, isn’t treated with respect.

Results of WPC’s recent cleanup are quite shocking, considering the organization had already removed over 230 kg of waste from the Ojibway Prairie in 2018. So, is the problem getting worse? According to the City of Windsor, complaints about illegal dumping have been on the rise. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of calls to 311 increased by 64%. And it’s not just a Windsor problem; earlier this year, ERCA collected over 680 kg of garbage from conservation areas across the Essex region.  Windsorites are reminded that household and commercial waste can be brought to the Public Drop Off Depot near Central Ave. in Windsor, and bulk item pickup can be arranged by calling 311. Residents should report illegal dumping by calling 311 or the Windsor Police. Together, let’s keep Ojibway Prairie clean!

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