I am excited to be supporting the Maitland Trail Association and the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation. I always think of them as humanitarian works, always hand-in-hand. I’ll tell you why.
Theirs is a friendship forged in the clouds. Rain falls upon the trees that line our paths; it drips from branches overhead to moss underfoot; it soaks fallen leaves that line the forest floor. The cycle of birth and growth and death and decomposition marks the seasons as we mark trails. It lays quilts of living earth, new upon old, that store and filter water, exchange gases, cool the air and dampen noise.
We need it so badly: we humans have gotten good at poisoning ourselves, and nature is the remedy. Ask anyone within the Maitland Trail Association, and they’ll tell you what a hike does for body and soul. Check the Coastal Conservation Centre to see if woodlands are important to our Great Lake, and you’ll quickly learn it’s true.
Think of the perfect beach day: its care begins upriver, alongside rows of fertilized plants and stabled animals. Phosphorus- and nitrogen-rich water leaches into the ground, which is funneled by stream and river into the lake. There, this heady brew feeds the algae that grows upon hard surfaces like boats, rocks and mussels. Bacteria – largely in fecal matter, largely from birds, but also from faulty human systems – is shaded from UV rays here and in the sand. Waves and currents scatter the fragments back into the water, raising red flags for beachgoers.
And there’s the matter of erosion: did you know Goderich is situated atop a massive clay bed? It isn’t very far beneath the surface. This means any water that falls onto the ground has a narrow chance of being absorbed by organic matter before it becomes an underground spring. Gravity sweeps it eventually downward, to our Maitland River and/or Lake Huron. Plush vegetation with vigorous root systems comprise the first line of defense against flash flooding, landslides and other natural disasters.
What can we do?
- Don’t fight it. Maintain the watershed: allow native plants to thrive anywhere they don’t pose a threat; join a planting party.
- Join it. Go natural: use as little fertilizer as you can, or even better, acquaint your family with the simple process of composting.
- Take a hike. We were made to be in nature – the physical and psychological healing that happens out of doors cannot be overstated.
- Keep it clean. Ensure your water-treatment systems are adequate and well maintained; take care not to transport non-native species across waterways; don't dump potential toxins into the sewer or even down the drain; choose biodegradable and organic products and foods when you can.
- Step it up. Demand it of companies to implement these strategies in business; support those nonprofits that enable people to support themselves sustainably.
Throughout centuries of human migration and colonization and industrialization and urbanization, nature has continued to nudge against our front gate and undo as much of our striving as it can. I see that as a blessing, and I thank the Maitland Trail Association and Coastal Conservation Centre for helping me to understand it.
Proceeds from this piece will benefit the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation.
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