Robert's column

Robert Barron column: Somenos Marsh should be protected and respected

It likely would have been destroyed if not for the quick action of the RCMP officer

Who would have the audacity to destroy a memorial bench situated along the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom’s boardwalk that someone paid for to memorialize a person that was close to them?

I just can’t imagine what goes through someone’s head when they’re sitting on a bench with a plaque commemorating a beloved member of the community while overlooking the beautiful and peaceful Somenos Marsh and then deciding they will smash the bench up.

That’s what happened earlier this month and, added to that outrage is the fact that a fire had to be extinguished in a viewing tower in the marsh at about the same time.

It’s not the first time the infrastructure around the marsh, which the province’s Ministry of Environment identified in 1988 as “one of the best places to view wildlife close to an urban centre” in the province, has been attacked by brainless twits who have no regard for others and the hard work that was put into building and placing these structures for the good of the public.

Last summer, the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, the caretakers of the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area, had to spend thousands of dollars to repair its wildlife viewing platform in the marsh after it was vandalized in the spring of 2021.

The tower, which was built in 2019, is located near the entrance to the marsh’s Open Air Classroom, which is an educational outdoor experience that includes a multi-use trail network, elevated boardwalk and informational signage about some of the 200 bird species that make the marsh their home.

It had cost about $75,000 to build, and that was graciously helped out by donations from David Coulson Design, Mosaic Forest Management and Canadian Bavarian Lumber, among many others.

The vandals started a fire that burned a hole right through the platform at the top of the viewing tower early one morning.

The culprits kicked out wooden railings in the lower part of the tower structure and carried them to the top of the tower where they started a fire with the railings and some garbage.

An RCMP officer happened to be driving by at the time and spotted flames at the top of the tower.

He rushed up, caught the culprits in the act and thankfully put the fire out, but by then, the fire had burned through the viewing platform and into the heavy cedar beams underneath.

It likely would have been destroyed if not for the quick action of the RCMP officer.

As well as being recognized by the Ministry of Environment, in 2000 Somenos Marsh achieved a special designation when Bird Life International recognized it as a “globally significant” Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, and in 2018, the province formally designated all Crown lands within the conservation area as a Wildlife Management Area, one of the highest levels of habitat protection that can be given.

As well as being a haven for many species of birds, it’s also a nursery for salmon and efforts are ongoing to keep it that way.

It’s certainly a unique and natural place that should be recognized and protected, and the good people at the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society who have spent decades protecting and advocating on behalf of the marsh should be commended for their hard and diligent work there.

They have opened the marsh up to the public, in an environmentally conscious way, by building wildlife viewing facilities, installing interpretive messaging and building trails that included the memorial bench that was so senselessly destroyed.

Their work is a credit to the community, and to see it so thoughtlessly vandalized and destroyed gets my back up.

I hope other people are also offended by the vandals’ arrogance and insolence.

When and if the ones who destroyed the bench are ever caught, they should be made to pay for what they’ve destroyed, and sentenced to work with members of the society to make the marsh the best it can be.

Maybe then they’ll learn to respect it.

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