Alexandra Mae Jones , CTVNews.ca with a report from CTV News Kitchener’s Shannon Bradbury

Published Monday, July 29, 2019 9:30PM EDT

In pursuit of the perfect nature backdrop, some selfie-loving tourists are doing more harm than good to the places that inspire them.

At the Terre Bleu farm near Milton, Ont., thousands of lavender plants paint the grass in long lines of purple. They make a striking image—one that draws crowds of people who are looking to find a unique location for photos to post on social media.

But some guests don’t just leave with beautiful photos. Sometimes, they leave crushed bulbs and flattened stalks in their wake.

It’s a trend that is increasing, from rural farms in Ontario to the stunning tulip fields of The Netherlands. As more users flock to Instagram and other social media platforms, picturesque locations see a boom in visitors that isn’t always positive.

Ian Baird, one of the owners of Terre Bleu, says he is tired of seeing people step on his flowers in their attempt to one-up the next person with a creative photography angle.

“We love it when they’ll sit next to the lavender and carefully respect the lavender,” Baird told CTV News Kitchener. “But you’ll find people lie in the lavender and crush it. Once it’s crushed, we can’t harvest it.”

If staff see this happening, they ask visitors to refrain from disturbing the lavender. But Baird said people often respond by saying, “oh, well, I paid to come in here.”

The farm understands that the beauty of the lavender fields is one of its main draws.

An art installation called “The Big Yellow Door” — aptly named, as it consists of a bright yellow door standing alone in the middle of the lavender field — is one of the most popular photograph destinations for visitors to the farm. And Terre Bleu’s website has specific guidelines for photographs laid out, encouraging amateur photography and detailing how to get a permit for professional photography shoots, such as engagement or wedding shoots.

But the farm hopes that visitors don’t just come for an aesthetic experience. They want visitors to feel connected to nature.

“The attraction should be a love of lavender,” said Rachel Romero, a visitor to the farm who agrees with Baird’s frustrations. “So when people are walking over what they are coming to photograph, it seems a little counterintuitive.”

When the hills of a Southern Californian city lit up with huge swathes of orange poppies in March of this year, so many tourists travelled to the area to take photos and take in the stunning colours that the area was closed down. Law enforcement from neighboring jurisdictions had to be called in to manage traffic.

Tourism site Holland.com posted a reminder in May asking visitors to the Dutch countryside to keep their selfies “tulip-friendly” by staying outside of the flower fields themselves.

And a sunflower field in Hamilton had to put up signs in 2018 telling people they were not allowed to take photos after amateur photographers wading into the field left trampled flowers in their wake.

That tale is a familiar one to Terre Bleu, which also grows sunflowers. They say their bright yellow flowers have been damaged by visitors as well this summer.

“We really do want people to visit and see the beautiful flower(s),” Baird said. But, he stressed, guests should remember that Terre Bleu isn’t a movie set or a static backdrop.

“We are a farm,” he said. “Not a botanical garden and not a photoshoot.”


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