The Ontario government recently announced more businesses and services are permitted to reopen, provided that the proper health and safety measures are in place. The Province’s announcement currently applies to most conservation areas within the Grand River watershed, with Byng Island in Haldimand County entering this stage beginning June 19. Local health units may have additional requirements that must be followed.
“As the GRCA reopens more amenities and activities for visitors in our Grand River Parks, the health and safety of staff and the community remain our highest priority,” says GRCA Chair Helen Jowett. “We are pleased to reopen more amenities, and while this is good news, it’s also important to remember it will not be business as usual in our parks this year. As always, we encourage people to be responsible so that we can continue to offer an enjoyable experience for all visitors.”
In light of the province’s recent announcements, the GRCA will make a decision on its ability to offer other recreational activities, such as overnight camping, in the near future. A decision on overnight camping is anticipated by the end of June, and will be communicated via the GRCA’s website, social media channels and through the news media.
The following is a list of parks and recreational activities that have currently reopened:
· most Grand River Parks are now open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; gatehouses are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
· beaches and washrooms in day use areas only
· Grand River Parks memberships are available for purchase at gatehouses during gatehouse operating hours, as well as online
· seasonal boat launch passes will be available for purchase at the Belwood Lake and Conestogo Lake gatehouses during operating hours
Visitors should check www.grandriver.ca/COVID19-FAQ for information about which facilities and services are available before visiting Grand River Parks. If visitors have further questions, they are asked to contact the parks directly.
The following GRCA conservation areas, facilities and programs remain closed until further notice:
· the Elora Quarry Conservation Area
· boat, canoe and kayak rentals
· pavilions, picnic shelters and other group facilities
· playground equipment
· overnight camping, including group camping
· tubing and the splash pad at Elora Gorge Conservation Area
· showers and change rooms
· washrooms not in day use areas
· the Learn to Fish program
· the fishing equipment rental program and the life jacket loaner program
The following facilities and programs will remain closed for the remainder of the 2020 season:
· swimming pools at Brant and Byng Island conservation areas
· food concession stands
To help protect both staff and visitors, the GRCA will be implementing a number of measures to address overcrowding and promote physical distancing in its parks and facilities. This may include limiting the number of daily visitors and increased patrols. Visitors should be aware that parking is limited, and while garbage receptacles are now available and will be emptied as frequently as possible, people are reminded to visit responsibly and if garbage bins are full, to take their waste with them and dispose of it at home.
Furthermore, Belwood Lake, Conestogo Lake, Elora Gorge, Guelph Lake and Rockwood conservation areas are subject to orders in place by the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit. All visitors who enter a commercial establishment, including Grand River Park gatehouses and public washrooms in these parks must wear a face covering.
Like many organizations and businesses across Ontario, the GRCA has needed to adapt its operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even where the Province and the local health units permit an activity to occur or facility to open, the GRCA may determine that certain activities will not occur and certain facilities will not open on GRCA properties. As an organization, the GRCA must consider both its ability to meet the government’s public health safety guidelines, as well as the financial feasibility of permitting certain activities and/or opening facilities, when making decisions about which programs and services it is able to provide in 2020.