Posted by on June 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm.

It’s a gorgeous evening at Massassauga Point. The breeze coming off the Bay is cooling off the day’s intense heat. The sound of small waves massaging the rocks is perfect for melting away the day’s stress.

A red van, a Pontiac Montana, pulls up in the parking lot. It stops, the door opens. A panting dog looks up, waiting to say hi to the hiker or the dog walker about to emerge into this magical evening.

But no one emerges; the door just shuts and the van pulls off. All that’s left are two Reid’s Dairy Styrofoam cups, straws, and sticky brown liquid oozing out onto the dirt.

“It’s not an uncommon situation,” said Terry Sprague, naturalist for the Quinte Conservation Authority. “It’s just irresponsibility. People will dump their garbage where and whenever they want. That’s why there’s so much garbage by the roadside. They have absolutely no respect for other people’s property, laws, or anything, and you’ve got to wonder, do they do this in their own home? Very mysterious people.”

Massassauga Point is one of the County’s nine conservation areas. Situated at the northeast corner of Ameliasburgh ward at the end of six kilometres of dead-end road, it’s not a place you get to on the way to somewhere else.

The tiny piece of land at the end of the road was once a hotel and a limestone quarry. The quarry hasn’t been in use since the 1950s. The hotel was closed in 1934 and subsequently dismantled. In 1971 the land was sold to the Quinte Conservation Authority.

In 1990, after decades of damage and disrepair, the area was restored by the newly formed Friend of Massassauga, who raised funds to make the location what it is today.

Massassauga Point isn’t just a place to hike, ski or play with your dog. It also houses a Bur Oak savannah, a globally rare and important ecosystem.

Six years ago the Friends of Massassauga put in an Osprey Nesting Project, tall poles cemented into the limestone bedrock at the Point to entice the birds.

The conservation area features a small dirt parking lot, a field, picnic area, outhouse and 2.2 km of trails set against the stony beach of Sand Cove. It also features a conveniently placed garbage bin. A sign in the parking lot says in clear, black letters “take only photos, leave only footprints.”

Why did that van drive more than six kilometres off any main road to drop two styrofoam milkshake containers in a natural, protected ecosystem?

Maybe the passengers were late, visiting someone on Massassauga Road who happens to be violently allergic to milk products. Perhaps an osprey had dropped something unpleasant on their van and this was a sort of retort.

It’s a good thing Ernie and Krista P. live around the corner. They came by to walk their dog, Baskerville, minutes later. As they walked by, Ernie P. picked up the garbage and brought it to the bin.

“I don’t know why people seem to think that they need to get [the garbage] out of their car and onto the road,” says Ernie P., who didn’t want his last name published because he says what he did was not heroic, just a normal thing to do. “It’s a beautiful area we live in and a little consideration can go a long way.”

The couple has seen lots of garbage on the roads leading to Massassauga Point—mostly disposable cups and car tires.They pick up whatever they can. Thankfully, this couple is not alone.

“Especially at Massassauga,” said Sprague, hearing the anecdote. “There are enough people who love it and appreciate what the Friends do enough that they’ll routinely pick up the garbage. Because they want to see the area kept clean.”

“[Littering] is going to get worse as this population grows,” said Sprague. “The best we can do is follow along behind them and clean up like we’re their mothers.”

Ernie P. is nobody’s mother. But as long as there are still people like the driver of that red van, we can be grateful for his effort.

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