WELLINGTON COUNTY – Most local conservation authority parks remain closed for now, despite the Ontario government’s May 9 announcement that provincial parks have reopened for limited day use this week.
The Maitland Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) is the lone authority in the region whose conservation areas are now open for limited day use.
In a May 13 press release, MVCA officials ask visitors to follow physical distancing recommendations.
No social gatherings are permitted and washrooms, playgrounds and picnic shelters remain closed. In addition, no camping or fires will be allowed at Conservation Areas.
Visitors are being asked to park at the gatehouse as gates will not be open for vehicle traffic.
Walkers and cyclists are asked to stay on the trails and paved roads.
Additional information about the reopening is available on the MVCA website.
The remaining conservation areas within Wellington County remain closed as of May 13.
In a May 11 statement, the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) indicated that while GRCA conservation areas and properties currently remain closed, plans to reopen some properties for limited day use are being developed.
“The province’s announcement applies to parks owned and operated by the province. It does not apply to GRCA parks, trails and natural areas,” GRCA officials state.
“At this time, all properties owned and managed by the GRCA remain closed to the public.
“However, we know how important access to nature is for community health and wellbeing and are working on a plan that will allow us to reopen some GRCA properties for limited day use. We will take a phased approach, with our properties reopening in stages.”
On March 24, the province ordered the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Recreational amenities and campgrounds were not listed as essential businesses.
GRCA communications manger Lisa Stocco noted the GRCA’s conservation areas are different from both federal and provincial parks.
“The GRCA receives no tax dollars to operate its conservation areas. The areas are operated on the funds they receive through gate access fees, camping revenue, and pay-for-use items like canoe and tubing rentals,” she explained.
The Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority is pointing out some people seem confused because the province announced provincial parks and conservation reserves would be opening May 11.
“Our conservation areas remain closed at this time. There seems to be some confusion revolving around ‘conservation reserves’.
“Our lands (those for public access), are known as conservation areas, not conservation reserves. We apologize for the confusion,” the authority states.
Conservation Ontario, which represents Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities, also addressed the confusion on its Twitter feed, stating, that provincial parks and conservation reserves “are provincial properties. To find out if a conservation authority is open, please visit your local conservation authority website.”
Credit Valley Conservation’s (CVC’s) conservation areas and trails also remain closed. However, CVC is initiating a planned, phased reopening of most of its trails. Ongoing work in preparation of opening includes :
– checking nearly 100 kilometres of trails for hazards and safety concerns;
– removing the closure barriers (barricades) from 76 locations;
– preparing operations across the system for safe social distancing;
– Changing park signage.
– performing enhanced maintenance and cleaning operations.
– ensuring vendor support with services such as garbage pick-up.
– coordinating changing parks status with municipal partner authorities (police, by-law) and other land management agencies.