On Saturday, May 23, the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) will reopen Belwood Lake (Fergus), Conestogo Lake (Wallenstein), Guelph Lake (Guelph) and Rockwood (Rockwood) conservation areas for limited recreational activities such as walking and birdwatching.
These areas will be open between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Since there is no automatic gate at these conservation areas, and gatehouses will remain closed, visitors without a Grand River Parks membership pass will be required to pay by cash (exact change only) in payment boxes located at the gatehouse. Standard entrance fees will apply.
Laurel Creek (Waterloo) and Shade’s Mills (Cambridge) conservation areas are also open for limited day use activities to those with Grand River Parks memberships or paying by credit card at the automatic gate.
It is anticipated that the GRCA will be reopening some additional Grand River Parks on May 30, provided hazard tree work can be completed. Boat launches in reopened conservations areas are also expected to open on May 30, provided that all required public safety infrastructure, including booms and buoys, have been installed at the dams. At this time, boating and fishing are not permitted in GRCA conservation areas.
All buildings and on-site facilities, including washrooms, gatehouses, picnic areas, playgrounds, beaches and docks in these areas will remain closed. In addition, no garbage receptacles will be available and visitors are asked to carry any garbage or pet waste out with them.
The GRCA will also be reopening a number of additional natural areas to the public on Saturday, May 23 for recreational activities such as walking and birdwatching, including:
• Dumfries Conservation Area, Cambridge
• Arkell-Smith, Puslinch (Map)
• Guelph Lake dam to Victoria Road N (including GORBA trails), Guelph (Map)
• Puslinch Tract, Puslinch (Map)
• Snyder's Flats, Bloomingdale (Map)
• Starkey Hill, Puslinch (Map)
The GRCA’s sections of the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail, the Brantford to Hamilton Rail Trail, the Elora Cataract Trailway and the SC Johnson Trail (Paris to Brantford) are also open for biking and hiking.
Visitors are reminded to practice physical distancing by staying at least two metres or six feet apart, and not to congregate in groups. The GRCA is also asking the public to plan short visits to areas that have been reopened to ensure the space can be shared with all those looking to get outside and into nature. Parking is limited. Some portions of the conservation areas may not be accessible. Visitors are reminded to obey signage, and keep their pets on a leash at all times.
At this time, all other GRCA conservation areas and properties owned and managed by the GRCA not mentioned above remain closed. The GRCA will continue to reopen its properties in stages, and information will be shared as it becomes available.
At this time, overnight camping is not permitted at any GRCA conservation area. It is still uncertain when the GRCA will be able to offer nightly camping this season. It takes at least four weeks to prepare the parks for overnight camping.
The GRCA is tentatively planning to open seasonal camping on June 15, subject to its ability to meet all the health and safety requirements of the provincial government. Seasonal campers will receive further information regarding reopening and access to their sites directly from their park in the coming days.
As restrictions ease, there are a number of things that must be addressed prior to reopening GRCA properties to the public in order to ensure the safety of both our staff and the community, as well as meet the government’s safety guidelines. The GRCA will continue to monitor the evolving situation and update its plan to reopen based on the latest directions being provided by local, provincial and federal governments.