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'No more fairy doors and painted rocks in the woods' says City of Guelph

The social media call to hit the brakes on fairy doors and painted rocks has been met with a mix of criticism and support
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A painted 'fairy door' recently seen in a wooded area in Guelph. On Monday the city asked residents to stop leaving them — as well as painted rocks and bird feeders — in natural areas around Guelph. Anam Khan/GuelphToday file photo

The CIty of Guelph has taken to social media to ask residents to stop attaching miniature 'fairy doors' to trees and leaving painted rocks in the woods.

The trend has shown up in wooded areas in Guelph for several years, including Marksam Park, Preservation Park and along the Eramosa River Trail, among other spots, said Dave Beaton, Guelph's program manager for forestry and sustainable landscapes in a phone interview on Monday.

“They always start with a single fairy door and then they turn into a bit of a fairy subdivision. We have them all over the place now,” said Beaton.

The city sent out a tweet and Facebook post early on Monday asking people to stop leaving painted rocks, fairy doors and bird feeders behind on their walks.

"We know it looks magical, but drilling fairy doors into trees in parks and natural areas leaves them vulnerable to disease and pests, adding strain where it's not needed," said the post. "Let's protect nature the way it's protected us this last year by leaving it the way you found it."

The posts have been met with a mix of support for the decorations and people who agree with the city that natural areas should be left untouched.

“It’s a bit of a polarizing issue in the community,” said Beaton. "What we are trying to do with this post is to press pause — not to say that we are looking to remove all of these items — we just want people to stop leaving them out there at this point."

The practice of screwing or nailing items into living trees is particularly worrying.

“We do know that maple syrup involves drilling into trees and trees can resist a certain amount of that, but in many cases we are leaving screws or nail in living trees and it’s a vector for disease and pests," said Beaton. “Our forests are under considerable stresses from climate change, from droughts and flooding and other things. We are just trying to make sure we are not adding to the stresses we are putting on our urban forests."

Beaton said city staff are not asking people to remove any of the existing items in the natural areas and residents should not feel the need to report them when they see them.

“I don’t think there needs to be a call to action in regards to this, we are just asking to not add more," he said.

City staff are engaging people who have responded so far on Twitter and Facebook. 

“People are like ‘why are you coming after fairy doors when there is dog poop or encampments and such?'" said Beaton. "We are working to address all of those issues at the same time. It’s not that we are singling out fairy doors or rocks or anything along those line, we are just wanting to say maybe there are other ways of engaging kids and getting them involved and making nature walks interesting to them."

That could include searching for insects, taking photographs, identifying plant species or looking for birds.

“We are not anti-magic, in fact we are trying to restore, in some cases, the magic of nature," said Beaton.