Outdoor activities involve some health and safety risks. Protect yourself and your family by being aware of the natural hazards and risks that are common in the area you are visiting. In Pinery Provincial Park, the most common hazards for park visitors are Poison Ivy, ticks, severe weather, and getting lost. Injury or illness from these dangers can be prevented or reduced by being informed and prepared.
Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans and Toxicodendron rydbergii) are common plants in Southwestern Ontario and grow throughout Pinery Provincial Park, including on trails and campsites. It is a woody plant that grows in three forms in Ontario: a low plant, a shrub, and a climbing vine. The low plant and the climbing vine are found in Pinery. It is a flowering plant with small greenish-white flowers that bloom in spring and small clusters of white berries throughout the year. The plant has three leaves, with the outer two leaves attached to the main stem and the middle leaf extending out on a small stem. Leaf shape and size can vary.
Poison Ivy is a natural part of Pinery and it thrives in the sandy soil. Many native herbivores use Poison Ivy leaves for food, and birds and small mammals consume the berries.
All parts of the plant (roots, shoots, stems, leaves, vine) are covered in Urushiol Oil, which causes an itchy skin reaction in most people and is present all year round. Skin reactions begin a few days after exposure. People with a severe skin reaction, such as blisters, should seek medical attention from their doctor.
If you are exposed to Poison Ivy, wash well with soap and water to remove the irritating oil. (Dish soap works best.) The oil can remain on clothing, footwear, equipment, and pets, so everything that has touched Poison Ivy should be washed as well. Pay particular attention to footwear as the Urushiol Oil may be transferred to your hands when you take your shoes off. Learning to recognize and avoid Poison Ivy will ensure your visits to Pinery and other natural areas remain itch-free and memorable.
Detail of natural green leaf in background. Dangerous parasite carrying encephalitis, Lyme borreliosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis. Selective focus
Lyme Disease and Ticks
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. These bacteria are spread to humans by the bite of infected Black-legged Ticks (Ixodes sp.). The risk of exposure to Lyme disease is highest in places where Black-legged Ticks have established populations. The risk of contact with ticks begins in early spring with warmer weather and lasts to the end of autumn. Not all ticks are infected with (or carry) Lyme disease and not all bites result in the disease. The symptoms and health effects caused by Lyme disease can vary for each person. The most common symptom is a red bull’s-eye rash that appears at the site of the bite between 3 and 30 days after the bite.
It is important to immediately remove ticks from your skin and clothing. Perform a full body check on yourself and others. Ticks may bite anywhere on the body, but are commonly found in the groin, along the spine, and at the hairline on the back of the head. Ticks are most likely to spread the bacteria after being attached to your skin and feeding for more than 24 hours. Take precautions like wearing light coloured pants, long-sleeved clothing, and spraying insect repellent containing DEET on your footwear and clothing to reduce your chances of contact with a tick.
NEVER use a match, heat, or chemicals to remove a tick, and do not kill the tick before it is removed. Remove the tick using tweezers. Grab the tick’s head as close to the skin as possible, pulling it out with steady pressure. Do not twist the tick or it may break off in the skin. Clean and disinfect the bite area using standard first aid procedures. Always be sure to keep the tick once removed to permit confirmation of the species and potentially for submission for testing. Ticks can be submitted to Pinery staff at the Visitor Centre. Ticks found on humans will be sent to the Lambton Public Health Unit for identification and possibly testing for the Lyme disease bacteria.
Ticks are very small and vary in size and colour depending on their species, age, and whether they have been feeding. Ticks must feed on blood from an animal or person to live. In Pinery, there are two main species of ticks: the Wood Tick (or American Dog Tick) and the Black-legged (or Deer) Tick. The Wood Tick does not transmit Lyme disease. Black-legged Ticks are capable of transmitting Lyme disease to humans. However, not all Black-legged ticks are infected with the disease.
For more information contact Lambton Public Health at 519-383-8331 or toll free at 1-800-667-1839. You can also learn more online
Before you set out, study maps and plan your route. While exploring the Park, don’t venture off marked paths. If you get off course, retrace your steps. Travel with another person whenever possible. If you do go solo, make a trip plan and share your destination, route, and estimated return time with a friend or family member. It’s important to not rely solely on your phone for navigation if you are spending time in nature.
If you do get lost:
Keep calm. Sit for a moment to collect your thoughts.
Stay put. It’s much easier for rescuers to find you if you stay in one place. Don’t wander; instead, find an open place and wait for help.
Make a call if you are able. Call a family member or friend that is in the Park and may be looking for you or dial 911 and share your location. Use GPS coordinates or landmarks that you passed to help rescuers find your location.
If a friend or family member is lost, then report the lost person to a Park staff member to begin a search. Give the staff member a description of the person including name, age, hair colour, gender, skin tone, eye colour, what they were wearing, and any other visual features that may help identify them. Tell the staff member where and when the lost person were last seen, where they may have been going, and any relevant medical information about them. If the person was last seen near water, tell the staff member if the individual can or cannot swim. Finally, tell the staff member your campsite number if you are currently camping at the park and have someone (staff or a member of your group) wait at the campsite in case the missing person returns. Park staff will notify the OPP and ask for more information if necessary.
Camping Safety in Severe Summer Weather
When you arrive, make sure you have a lightning safety plan in place for your group. Be aware of your surroundings and look for shelter. If you’re staying in a tent or tent-trailer, your safest option is a hard-topped vehicle. If sheltering in a vehicle during a storm, avoid touching anything metal inside and keep the windows rolled up. Do not shelter in a picnic shelter or vault privy, as these structures cannot ground lightning strikes. You should also avoid sheltering near the tallest object in your area or objects that conduct an electrical charge. Tall objects, such as tall trees, posts, fences, or other equipment, can attract lightning.
If you’re on the water when a storm approaches, make your way to land immediately and take shelter. A storm is not the time for water activities. Water can be unpredictable and is a conductor of electricity, so you’re safest on land until the storm passes. Even if you feel the storm has passed, you should maintain lightning safety precautions for 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning or rumble of thunder.
In an emergency, always call 911 or the local emergency services. Pinery Provincial Park is located at 9526 Lakeshore Rd, Grand Bend ON. If it’s possible and safe, notify a Park Warden that emergency services are on the way. They can help escort emergency vehicles to your location.
Always remember that your safety is the most important part of any outdoor adventure. Don’t be afraid to turn back or head home if you don’t feel prepared for the weather.
About Friends of Pinery Park
Established in 1989, The Friends of Pinery Park is a registered charity dedicated to education, promotion, and preservation of Pinery Provincial Park. Over the years we have undertaken a variety of activities to protect the Park’s rare ecosystem and enhance the experience of visitors to the Park. Among them: research into species at risk, projects to stabilize the freshwater dunes, projects to make the Park’s natural beauty accessible to all, educational programs for children and youth, and much more. Join us!