GRCA temporarily closes some parks because people not following the rules

WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) has temporarily closed four parks in Wellington County because people are not following rules.

Officials announced on June 9 that the Belwood Lake, Elora Gorge, Guelph Lake and Rockwood conservation areas will be closed until June 15.

“Given the limited staff that the GRCA currently has in place, and the work we need to complete in order to prepare our conservation areas for additional activities, we are temporarily closing the parks where we’ve had the most significant challenges,” stated Pam Walther-Mabee, manager of conservation areas.

“We are taking this action so that our staff can focus on completing this work, rather than managing capacity and enforcement issues.”

The issues to date have included:

  • people not respecting closures;
  • people accessing conservation areas without paying;
  • visitors are not following provincial guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (congregating in large groups and not practicing physical distancing); and
  • “a considerable amount of garbage and other waste” left behind.

“All of these challenges have put further strain on the GRCA’s already limited resources,” officials say, adding fees are vital to the operation of GRCA parks.

The Elora Quarry Conservation Area is closed until further notice, but the following remain open: Brant, Byng Island, Conestogo Lake, Laurel Creek, Pinehurst Lake and Shade’s Mills conservation areas, as well as Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area.

Additional activities, services

Starting June 15, the GRCA will begin to open beaches and some washrooms in most of its conservation areas, except Byng Island.

A decision on overnight camping is anticipated by the end of June.

“As the GRCA reopens, the health and safety of staff and the community remain our highest priority,” stated GRCA Chair Helen Jowett.

“In addition to our ability to meet the government’s new public health and safety requirements, as a board, we will also need to consider the financial feasibility of reopening these additional activities.

“Like many organizations and businesses across Ontario, the GRCA’s operations have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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