Damage occurring to the landscape in Black Oak Park from ATV and Dirt Bikes

Ojibway Prairie Complex refers to the group of municipal and provincial parklands that serve to protect remnants of the original tallgrass prairie and oak Savannah ecological complexes once occupying the southwestern corner of present-day Windsor Ontario. The Complex includes Ojibway Park, Black Oak Heritage Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Spring Garden Natural Area and the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve. Land found in this area has been given provincial designation as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest, indicating that these sites support the best example of a particular type of flora and fauna in Ontario: Tallgrass prairie.

The City of Windsor’s Black Oak Heritage Park supports one of the finest stands of black oak in Southwestern Ontario and is home to such nesting birds as Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Eastern Bluebird and Cooper’s Hawk. Many of the native plants at Black Oak Heritage Park are extremely rare elsewhere in Canada.

Ojibway Park is the hub of activity at the Ojibway Prairie Complex. The area supports over 2,000 species of insects alone! By 1976, the park’s importance was well known and the City officially opened the Ojibway Nature Centre. In 2010, the original Nature Centre was torn down and rebuilt to LEED Gold standards. In 1991, a land purchase from the Windsor Raceway added another 50 acres to Ojibway Park. Most visitors initially visit here before exploring other regions of the Complex. Ojibway Park features several well-kept, self-guiding nature trails on which visitors can discover and learn about the ecology of the pin oak forest, savannah, and tall grass prairie habitats. Ojibway Park is also connected to the Windsor Trail.

Currently, security measurements have been put in place by the city of Windsor to prevent motor vehicles from entering the park. However, in the recent years, vandalism has been occurring to property fencing and members of the public have been driving All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) into our municipal, provincial and privately owned natural areas.

Off-road vehicles such as ATVs have major impacts on the environment. The soil, streams, vegetation and wildlife are all negatively affected. ATVs and dirt bikes compact the soil and create ruts, which can expand into gullies following heavy rains. This can cause heavy soil erosion: the process by which soil and nutrients are removed from the area by water or wind and transported into our water system. This increases the sediment and nutrient load of the Detroit River and harms its ecosystem.

When off-road vehicles spin their tires through mud holes they leave ruts in the meadows and damage the grass and other plants. Mudding usually occurs in the spring, shortly after the snow melts and when the temperature starts to warm up outside. Mudding compacts the soil, which results in direct destruction of vegetation and habitat. This limits the soil’s ability to transfer water and other minerals and substances through it. By altering the composition of the soil, erosion is accelerated, and plant life is negatively affected. This in turn affects wildlife, water, and the entire ecosystem. The damage of Off-Road vehicles is long lasting to the environment.

Sadly, another issue which continues to damage this precious natural area is the dumping of garbage by park visitors. Disposing of tires, appliances, and other unwanted garbage in our parks and natural areas has negative social, environmental, and economic consequences. The area can appear overrun and un-kept, lowering the quality of life for the people living in the area. Also, the garbage will destroy habitat and increase the amount of toxins being leached into our soil, air and water. Finally, it will cost the City money to pick up the garbage.

Ecosystems are also negatively affected by off road vehicles because of the exhaust and oil they emit to the air and land. Off-road vehicles cause greater stress to the environment than foot traffic alone, and off-road operators who attempt to test their vehicles against natural obstacles can do significantly more damage than those who follow legal trails. Off Road Vehicle’s also create noise which disturbs the animals, and they destroy and alter the habitat the animals rely on and live in.

Non-motorized recreation allows people to enjoy nature and helps them to better understand the environment. It teaches people to appreciate the land and take care of it. In Windsor Ontario, we are extremely fortunate to have such rare and diverse ecosystems in our backyard. As citizens we must take pride in our environment and treat it with the respect that it deserves.
Together we can keep our parks clean and damage free.