COLUMN: Lower the boom on Watson trail abusers

The time has come for city hall to crack down on ignorant homeowners who hack, chop, mow and otherwise encroach on Sarnia’s premier nature trail.

For anyone who hasn’t explored it, the Howard Watson Nature Trail is a beautiful 16-kilometre linear park running more or less uninterrupted from Confederation Street to Camlachie. The former CNR right-of-way gives residents – and plants and wildlife – a sanctuary from mounting urban pressure.

But some adjacent property owners treat the trail like an extension of their own backyard, dumping yard waste, cutting trees, and mowing native plants into lawn. Wildflowers and trees are uprooted and replaced by gardens, woodpiles, even sheds.

A “nature trail” is supposed to be just that – a trail for nature, and Sarnia’s meanders through tallgrass prairie, around ponds and beneath woods.

I’ve found rare Carolinian trees on the trail that live nowhere else in Canada, including sassafras and hop trees. I’ve seen foxes and coyotes dart across the path, picked currants and raspberries, and admired wild lupine and roses.

In recent years many once-wild properties adjacent the trail have been cleared for businesses and homes; an understandable if unfortunate consequence of urban development. But the loss of surrounding greenspace is all the more reason why Sarnia must get serious about the property lines, and protect what remains of nature inside the 99-foot-wide trail corridor itself.

Encroachers have been warned, repeatedly, over the years about a bylaw protecting the trail, but with mixed results. When the issue arose again last fall Sarnia Coun. Mike Kelch said the rules should be explained again to trail neighbours before action is taken.

That has now been done. Let’s call the grace period done and over.

We don’t tolerate homeowners encroaching on Canatara Park, so why would we allow it on the Howard Watson Nature Trail?

People who abuse this public treasure are being selfishness and should be slapped with fines for each and every offence.

– George Mathewson