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Draft plan to manage tourism moving forward with more examination

Traffic heading to sandbanks extending more than 2kms from the entrance in the summer of 2020. – Lisa-Heaney-photo

 UPDATE JAN 28: Council requested the plan be referred back to staff to clearly identify initiatives that benefit residents and have further ideas and information regarding Wellington’s boat launches, water haulage station and the beach; plans for parks and better access to water for residents.

It was noted Wellington’s water haulage is essential and should be available at that, or another location. The boat launch at Belleville Street is considered at best to be used as a seasonal launch and alternatives, such as working with nearby Ceramet, are being examined to provide access to West Lake. Use of barbecues will also be explored as their use in rural parks is a time-honoured tradition. The stationary barbecues in place, however, may not meet muster.

The elephant in the room, said Mayor Steve Ferguson, is what movement forward the provincial government will share to alleviate concerns with over-tourism and vehicle line-ups at the County’s provincial parks.

With more than 45 initiates presented, council also asked the plan be broken down to facilitate speedier processing of items that were not of concern as some of the changes require multiple steps to implement.

Councillors applauded staff’s work in creating the document in collaboration with community partners.
Several noted the paramount considerations are community safety and to mitigate effects of the changes to residents.

* * *

JAN. 27: Efforts to stem the tide of turbulent tourism in the County are being shored up with short, and long-term draft plans.

A draft ‘Tourism Management Plan’ before council at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, follows unprecedented tourism levels in the summer of 2020. Heightened by travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, excessive traffic, garbage, littering, illegal parking and camping, general overcrowding and safety concerns prevailed.

Recommendations include a County-wide speed limit of 40km/h in settlement areas, paid parking zones in Wellington and Bloomfield, continued parking restrictions with higher fines and fees, increased staffing and enforcement, requests for pledges from visitors to behave, but no tolls at entrances or residents’ cards.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to rebalancing tourism in Prince Edward County – and certainly no guarantee that every challenge can be resolved in a single year,” the executive summary of the draft states.

“During the busy summer months, an influx of visitors – particularly day visitors – erodes the quality of life of residents who are feeling undervalued and disconnected from the place they call home,” state the authors of the report. “Tourism businesses face burnout trying to keep up with high-season demand, then struggle to survive low-season months.”

The draft plan aims to “chart a path toward better balance” without additional cost to residents.

At an anticipated cost of $590,000 and revenue of $293,000, the draft seeks funding through capital reserves ($49,000) and reserves of the new municipal accommodation tax ($249,000). Other grants and recovery funding tied to COVID-19 will also be sought.

“Bringing better balance to the tourism sector is not a quick fix: it will take several years of concerted effort. This plan should be considered a ‘living document’ that is evaluated and updated on an annual basis.”

The report’s authors include Karen Palmer and Rebecca Lamb (Destination Development); Ashley Stewart (Programs) and Julianne Snepsts (Communications). The plan was prepared in collaboration with staff, leadership and community partners including bylaw enforcement, OPP, Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Quinte Conservation and comments from more than 1,400 residents who completed an online survey.

Residents’ concerns focused on excessive and unsafe traffic, lack of parking and access to parks, excessive garbage, littering, rudeness and inappropriate visitor behaviour, trespassing, illegal camping, line ups and crowds, noise, and nuisance from vacation rentals.

Long-standing suggestions of highway tolls at the County’s entrances, restricted entry and resident cards were deemed as “cost-prohibitive, having some detrimental impact and not within the municipality’s scope.”

Instead, following a method used in other destinations, visitors could be asked to “pledge” to commit to good behaviour as reservations at local businesses are confirmed. An idea for a ‘Resident Pledge’ to encourage people “to embrace their role as tourism ambassadors” was rejected as “residents cannot be expected to make a pledge until key tourism management issues are being addressed.”

Addressing public urination or defecation, the draft states that while there is currently no “public nuisance” bylaw, enforcement would require an offender to be caught in the act, and since enforcement is complaint-driven, creating a bylaw is unlikely to resolve the issue. “Additional port-a-potties, better signage and better access to maps pointing to public washrooms should help visitors do the right thing.”

The plan states some challenges are outside of municipal control – including traffic enforcement (OPP), provincial parks (province) conservation areas (Quinte Conservation). The municipality also does not have the authority, or capacity, to patrol Point Petre and must look to the province for long-term solutions.

The draft suggests immediate steps for the summer of 2021. A Destination Development Master Plan is being created to guide the tourism sector over the next five to seven years. In addition to the Tourism Master Plan, there are several studies for 2021, including the Transportation and Cycling Master Plans, Parking Plan, Picton Harbour Plan, Short-Term Accommodation Review, and the Wellington Beach Management Plan.

The summer of 2021 could see an expansion no-parking areas established last year at popular entrances to waterways and ‘secret beaches’ for weekends and statutory holidays. Increased fines established last summer generated $12,400 in revenue in a single month of weekend-only enforcement.

Swing gates and signs proposed for Wellington Beach

Staff recommend fines be enacted full-time from mid-May to mid-October and include other popular zones, ‘No Public Water Access’ signs and swing gates for Wellington Beach, Bakker road and at Stinson Block.

Among recommendations is the closure of Belleville Street boat launch for the summer of 2021 and alter the operating hours of the Wellington Beach boat launch from June 1 to September 20, closing them all weekends and holidays until 7p.m. However, the report notes staff would still be required to monitor capacity and assist with parking. The Wellington Beach Task Team, established by the Community and Economic Development Commission, will identify longer-term strategies for the Wellington lakefront.

The draft recommends continuation of the $20 parking at Wellington Beach with a block of spaces reserved for residents, at no cost, and mid-week use free of charge. Wellington Beach is considered at capacity when approaching 350 users. An additional waste removal crew is suggested to handle excessive garbage and recycling.

Other draft plan recommendation highlights include:
– CCTV traffic cameras to assist the OPP with enforcement. Funding was recently approved by council.

– Illegal camping bylaw for outside of zoned areas with fines increased to $500 from $80. Reserved camping at Wellington Beach and the arena was considered, but rejected due to lack of amenities, cost of insurance and nuisance to neighbours.

– Ban on barbecues and cooking devices at municipal parks and beaches, instead encouraging local food vendors on site.

– Provincial Parks return to full complement of warden staff with additional seasonal enforcement from a private security service from May to October.

– Deputizing provincial park and conservation staff to issue $400 tickets for illegal parking.

– Free parking on main streets is recommended from Dec. 1 to March 31 with increased summer parking rates.

– Modify food truck bylaw to allow operation in towns to alleviate line ups on sidewalks and continue patio program. Postpone sidewalk bylaw to 2022.

– Reach visitors before they leave home with a ‘Plan Your Visit’ campaign, paired with amped up visitor services to assist in managing volume, encourage spending and motivate day trippers to move beyond crowded spaces.

– Additional training for staff including cultural sensitivity, conflict de-escalation and more French-language resources, along with continued Tourism Ambassador training.

A “Who to Call” cheat sheet is proposed for residents seeking help resolving issues with trespassing, speeding, unsafe or inappropriate visitor behaviour, and nuisance calls about short-term accommodations. The municipality also proposes periodic updates on bylaw enforcement, including numbers of tickets issued and fines levied, to show residents outcomes.

The County is accused of spending significant marketing dollars to lure tourism, but states in the report that “Since 2017, no resources have been allocated to marketing for May to September visits. The focus has been exclusively as a shoulder season and winter destination… to entice visitation from November to April and to mitigate the influx of peak season visits. Since 2017, the annual marketing budget has remained around $30,000. By comparison, Kingston budgets $700,000 annually on tourism marketing.”

At Thursday’s meeting, council is being asked to approve spending of $248,000 Municipal Accommodations Tax to support initiatives; and direct staff to change applicable bylaws, fees charges, etc., and bring them back to council for approval.

Click here to see the full draft Tourism Master Plan document. 

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  1. SM says:

    There is a link in the story to the full, actual report. You will find that issues throughout the County are addressed. Unfortunately Wellington is mentioned often because a lot of the large problems are found there. I live in Wellington. Last summer I did not go through town on the weekend if I could avoid it. Traffic jams. No place to park. People everywhere. Illegal camping at the arena and at Lakeshore Farms lot.

  2. olmnonthemtn says:

    Yup it seems from last year that some visitors have not passed kindergarten and need to be told. As noted in the plan some jurisdictions have written expectations in order to graduate. However cities like Venice and Amsterdam also state the consequences if expectations are not followed eg fines and if they’re foreigners they are escorted out of the country and their embassy are informed.

  3. KB says:

    Wellington, Wellington, Wellington – is a beautiful area which I adore.
    But let’s not forget the rest of the county and issues in other places. There appears to be a strong focus on Wellington. I love Wellington, but all areas in the County suffer significant negative impacts from over-tourism. I’d like to see other areas addressed.

  4. JennyD says:

    Putting rules and restrictions in place is meaningless if there is no enforcement. This plan needs teeth.

    It also appears vague on overnight camping at day use conservation areas and parks. Last year there was an enormous amount of trailers and campers in Delhi Park Picton, Beaver Meadows CA, South Shore and Point Peter – to name a few. I’d like to know who and how these restrictions will be enforced and what’ the plan to address it? Nonetheless, it will come out of local tax dollars to pay staff to enforce.

  5. SS says:

    There are only 5 ways vehicles can get into or out of PEC.

    If we put a 407-style license plate camera/transponder detector at each location (entrance only), we could make entering the County free for certain categories of transponder holders. Anyone who owns a County residence or works at a County workplace for example.

    We could then bill vehicles entering without a transponder, or with things like commercial transponders. The revenue raised from this could then be used for road maintenance to repair the wear and tear from non County residents/workers.

    Overall the data collected would allow an evidence based discussion of the issue that everyone talks about: the beating down of our many roads by those who don’t live here or work here.

    The people who run the 407 could be approached to run this for a cut of the revenue.

    Maybe a crazy idea but what you think?

  6. angela says:

    Love the suggestion that visitors be asked to pledge that they will behave respectfully in the county. Are we in kindergarten? Wait until the new Royal opens. We will have even more tourists, more traffic and more noise.

  7. Léanne says:

    What happened with the bilingual sign here??? “Beach Full” does not translate to “Pêche Fermée”. This means “Fishing Closed”. Needs to be changed to PLAGE. This is an official document. It is a shame that the French is completely incorrect …

  8. Stacy says:

    Also seeing they are recommending Wellington Boat launch be fully closed? Seems like a punishment to residents that will no longer be able to conveniently go fishing or boating in their own community.

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