TORONTO -- It’s been a growing trend over the last few months of the COVID-19 pandemic—families paint a colourful pattern or encouraging words on a rock and leave it outside for others to find.

But Ontario Parks is saying that trend may be damaging to the province’s natural ecosystems.

In a blog post, the agency warned against not only leaving painted rocks at provincial parks but also from removing any nature from the area. If someone wants to paint a rock—they should bring one from home, use eco-friendly paint while at the park and then take it with them.

“While we know most rock artists are responsible and use eco-friendly paint, there is no way for our park managers to know if a given rock is friend or foe to wildlife,” the post reads. “Even a responsibly painted rock can inspire a heap of irresponsibly painted ones.”

painted rocks

Ontario Parks says that most rocks are eventually ground into dust and those minerals help feed plants and animals in the area.

"When these rocks are being taken out of their environment and covered in paint they are then no longer able to do their job for the ecosystems they are in," a spokesperson said in an email to CTV News Toronto. 

The blog post goes on to say that while it may appear that there is an "endless supply of pebbles" in Ontario, the agency says that every stone is crucial to the health of ecosystems across the province.

“These nutrients will cycle through the food chain only a few times before nature will need more from the rock dust. This is why all things, living and non-living, are protected in parks.”

The blog post makes sure to applaud the creativity of each artist and says that they understand the appeal of the activity as art and nature often go hand-in-hand.

Just not at provincial parks.