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Home devastated home

Steve Campbell

The County is still reeling from the effects of a seemingly unstoppable infestation. And COVID too.

As far as the virus is concerned, we are about as clean as you can get in Ontario, with zero new cases since mid-May (but two new cases here this week). We could all pat each other on the back, if we were allowed to pat each other on the back, for responding immediately with safeguard measures.

But no, the other infestation we did not expect was tourism. Not just tourism, but out-of-control tourism. We tried to tell visitors that this was not a good time to visit the County, what with half our services open and half closed. The visitors responded, in typical fashion, with incredible support, by totally ignoring our warnings.

We can’t understand the tourist mind. When lit signs on the 401 and all County roads state: SANBANKS IS FULL at 11 am, logic would say: “Hmm, perhaps I will jam myself into a monster train of people, who are all stopped and going nowhere, but will delight in spending the day trapped in my car in 31º heat, with my nagging wife and my damn kids, one foot away from the bumper in front, and see if that suddenly changes. If we’re not in the Park by 8 pm, I’m going to murder my family.” That pretty much sums up tourist logic. Signs – speed limit, no littering, no trespassing – are meant for other people, but certainly not me.

My previous column about Anger invoked a lot of, well – anger. This proves my point, but does not make me very happy.
County Council is jumping on this, declaring (finally) that this is an issue. Not just a problem, but a crisis – possibly a life-and-death situation. County life is growing, but also suffering, because we can’t bear the weight of the load.
Over the years, I have been on board with the marketing of the County, and literally on the boards of many of the projects designed to attract people to the County. But that was 1984 and, for me, those days are gone.
In my business, I sometimes encounter salesmen who continue to sell, after the deal is done. That’s us. We don’t need to sell anymore, we need to control our own success.

Now that Council has decided to take an ‘active’ hand in this, I would like to be the first on board to paint a picture of our future, based on the performance of previous councils.
As councillors waxed prolifically on the issue, it was clear that a solution was quick to be found around the horseshoe. Sorry, I had a laughing fit for a moment there.
No, of course they passed it to County staff, to examine the situation. I will now give you the final report of staff, four months before they present it: “Tourists suck!” So there’s four months gone, determining what we already know.
This will likely be followed by a period in which Council ‘sincerely’ wants public input, but has no idea what to do with it. (The file drawers are still filled with the results of the meetings, 10 years ago, on Future Vision for the County in five years. I suspect it will be unearthed in a kind of File Drawer Time Capsule in 2059.)

The next possibility is that Council will hire a ‘consultant’ (add a year and several thousand $) who will talk to people to assess the problem, though I’ve never met anyone – anyone – in the County who was ever approached by a consultant. Ask yourself: “When was I last visited by a hired consultant for my input?”
When the ‘public input’ starts, I would allow about two months for the ‘public’ to vent their full-blown anger at legitimate incidents of tourist misbehaviour. And, believe me, you are not going to be able to move forward until every County resident has exhausted their tales of tourist rudeness and stupidity. That’s just human psychology.

So that takes us about six months into the future (without the consultant part), before we hit the problem-solving stage. Hmm .. accounting for holidays, this takes us into February 2021, before anyone, anywhere, starts looking for solutions. That leaves about two months to actually figure out how to solve this, before it all starts again.
Now, since my rather reckless lifestyle doesn’t guarantee I’ll be around by the time Council figures this out, I have some thoughts to present:
Sandbanks Park. To most of us, this says it all. The park has been closing at or before 11 am. Everyone motors to Wellington Beach, which closes at 11:30. Do they head to North Beach? I’m not sure; haven’t checked that. But they are going everywhere else. Point Petre, Lake on the Mountain, Little Bluff, your driveway, your lawn.
Part of this is the lack of accommodation, thanks to coronavirus. But that’s not the root of the problem.

Look at the County through a visitor’s eyes. They think we’re a laid back, easy going country place, like Andy Griffith’s home in Mayberry, where we all go, “Shucks, you can all jest park your RV right here on ma lawn. Y’all need to relieve yerselves, go on over by the well.”
This is not far from the truth. They consider us open country, because they have no concept of what land – and property – is. At home, oh yeah, they damn-well know the property line. But not here.
This is a new breed of people. We are a piece of land, with a beach. They’re not the people who have been coming here for years, and learned to love the County and its ways. They are people who think we are Disney World.
Come for the Beach, pump up the rudeness, and leave your trash and manners behind. People will clean up after you, and try, really try, to keep a smile on their face when they serve you.
So, in terms of seeking a solution: Sandbanks Park. It is not an intentional offender, anymore than we are. But they, not our amazing marketing brilliance, are the problem. Straight up. The Beach is the problem.
If Council wants to truly solve half its tourism overflow problem, it needs to kick provincial butt. Our County has a limited budget; Sandbanks Park rakes in thousands of dollars every single freakin’ day. Full to capacity by 11 am? Campground fees on top? And yet they couldn’t afford to put one staff person on a public toilet to prevent people crapping in the bush?
And what, in fact, defines ‘capacity’? Lack of parking? Too many people? What about the other areas of the Park? Is the Dunes area filled to capacity? What about the West Point area? Sandbanks owns a pile of our western shore, and is expanding with more land acquisitions, and moving to tear down existing buildings. They have the acres we need to accommodate beach-goers, but they choose to turn them away. And then we get them.

Sandbanks Park draws thousands to the County, and turns thousands away. The rest of the County suffers because Sandbanks likes to run a nice, tight ship, and we get the dregs, the rejects, those who just wanted to go to the beach. And then they didn’t know where the hell they were going when the doors closed. And we’re paying the price for that.
People want the beach. The Beach does not want people. Unless we can balance the supply with the demand, we are doomed to deal with the nasty overflow.

* Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Marie Powell says:

    Thanks, Gary. I appreciate your thoughtful reply. My most recent letter of a few weeks ago regarding tourism and STAs was sent to our specific Councillor, and you’re right — I need to follow up, with a phone call. Regarding my comment about the lack of foresight, it reflects my view that many of our current problems have been building up for years, and the COVID19 pandemic has only served to push these problems to an extreme level, attracting attention that has been warranted for a long time. I’m frustrated that so many of us have been sounding the warning bell over excessive tourism in the past decade (or two), only to be ignored and have our tax dollars spent on promoting something which has caused so much distress for local residents and our environment. Now that we’re in a situation which is finally deemed a crisis, I can only assume that once again, the taxpayers will foot the bill to clean up the mess and implement new measures to fix problems that could have been avoided. Believe me, there is no joy in saying, “we tried to tell you so” to decision-makers in this instance. We’ve paid a big price for the tourist income which, in my opinion, has done more harm than good.

  2. Gary Mooney says:

    Marie, some comments on your post.

    First, sending an email to all of Council isn’t very effective. None of the members are specifically assigned to respond, so most don’t. I’ve been doing this for 15 years / 4 Councils and know most of the Council personally, and generally get no more than one response. Keep in mind that they get many emails each week and have many defined responsibilities to address, and it’s a part-time job. Better to email your own Councillor only (and mention that fact) and follow up if you don’t hear back. Better still is a phone call, and best is a meeting if the issue is important to you. Councillors do respond to their own constituents.

    Regarding your allegation of a lack of foresight and management, we have to cut them some slack. Nobody foresaw the pandemic, nor the resulting surge in tourism, nor the increase in bad behaviour by tourists. County government has had to deal with both the health and tourism aspects in addition to the normal municipal operations, with few additional resources. Also, it has little control over lineups at Sandbanks and North Beach and problems at conservation areas. County government, in collaboration with Parks Ontario and Quinte Conservation, will have a plan in place by next tourist season.

  3. angela says:

    Robert, those tourists do not put one cent into the pockets of most of us in the county. Many of the jobs tourism offers are seasonal with part-time hours and pay minimum wage. The damage done by tourism in our county far outweighs any benefits it provides. Visitors such as yourself are always welcome but not essential to our survival. Many local stores are strictly hobby businesses run by individuals who already have lots of financial security. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s a fact that they are not dependent on tourism for their survival. Enjoy your visits here but do not fall into the trap of believing that without tourism our county would go into a major decline. It might actually start to look like a real community again if vacation rentals once again became homes for local residents and neighbourhoods reappeared. Right now we have a lot of locals moving away because they no longer want to live in Disney World. And that is sad.

  4. Natalie says:

    Thanks but no thanks Chuck. I don’t care about wineries, I want my kids to have space to run around and to be in nature. Not packed in like sardines with a bunch of rich old people who only care about money. Sorry if that is harsh, it’s how I see it. Good luck you guys.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    To Marie Powell – you are most welcome. You sound like a very nice person, so don’t let the world get to you – this time too will pass. The key challenge for all of us is to survive long enough for it to pass.

  6. Mark says:

    Yes, those 12-14 $$ an hr jobs really build a solid community.

  7. Harry says:

    As an outsider who visits and loves the county and have done so for the last 15 years I do acknowledge the change that has happened to your beautiful county. What has been the catalyst? Has it been the wine industry? The beach has always been there. Has it been places like the Drake? I will admit what first attracted us was the beauty and relative quiet of PEC and that has changed somewhat over the years. Short term rentals, also another catalyst affects housing, that is why so many communities have limited them or banned them altogether. Tourism affects communities in many ways and most are positive, jobs for instance. Some affects are negative which is what many are voicing here. People like myself come for a week at a time and spend a lot of money thus stimulating the economy of PEC. Saying that tourism dollars only benefit a few is not correct, even if you are not directly benefiting, you are seeing money brought to the county which is presumably spent in the county. Day-trippers to the beach are probably more of a drain on your community, but how to limit them? As the author of the article says, Sandbanks park is the problem but it is a provincial park and open to the rest of Canada and that will not change anytime soon. I sympathize with locals who are perhaps just trying to go about there day but cannot because of the traffic created by people going to the beach.
    Possibly a tourism tax (a greater one) of some sort would be a start in the right direction and I for one would be more than happy to continuing contributing to beautiful PEC.

  8. Robert says:

    Hi there County..live in Kingston but visit in all four seasons…I use and patronize your stores &
    restaurants…which create jobs for your citizens…but it seems that the retired folks of your County
    don’t need jobs…maybe the Counties success in the housing market could be passed onto the
    County gov’t…maybe a portion of the value of your property..the value of your property is
    directly related to those tourists who bother you so much..just saying 😉

  9. Marie Powell says:

    Thank you, Dennis. Your story has given me pause. I’ve been thinking about this epidemic we’ve been experiencing, and I’m referring not to COVID19, but to the exasperation and bitterness in our community, which has reached a boiling point this summer. I’m certainly one of those who has allowed it to take hold,and I’ve had to examine why things have come this far.

    We’ve experienced an increasing sense of limited resources in the County, which almost always brings out the worst in people. We see “outsiders” (real or perceived) partaking in something we have cherished and stewarded, and because of poor management and a lack of foresight, the numbers have been overwhelming and have left residents feeling a sense of hardship and resentment. In addition, we’ve witnessed a lot of destructive activity, which only heightens our sense that our County will no longer be there for us to enjoy.

    There’s also a sense of injustice permeating the air. Many of us have asked for help from Council and/or law enforcement to manage issues like noise, property damage, trespassing, etc., and the result has been either a lack of response, or a lack of sufficient manpower to answer the number of complaints. We feel a grave sense of unfairness that our day-to-day lives, as well as our natural environment, are disrupted without any form of remedy or relief. When we can’t get adequate assistance from those who are supposed to help us, it’s only natural that our frustrations get redirected to the people in our environment.

    Perhaps we should be directing some of this pent up energy towards those who are in our municipal government, with accounts of our challenges and suggestions for change, whether it be to limit the numbers of visitors to the County, or to hire additional/seasonal law enforcement to attend to the increased problems during the months of June, July and August. I know many of us have already sent letters and emails which have not received a response, leaving us to wonder if we’re simply being ignored. That sense of indifference can cause some anger in people, too, and let’s face it: it takes about 30 seconds, or less, to at least say, “Thank you for your input.” I wish there were a better system in place where residents could effectively communicate with Council, and Council were required to respond. That might help to alleviate some of the anger in this place.

    Thank you for encouraging me to look at this from a different perspective. I’m still angry, but at least I have a broader view of where it’s coming from, and how it’s affecting our community.

  10. Chuck says:

    Oh the tourists will be here. There is no plan to pave the Sandbanks Park or Wineries. Open an ice cream shop and retire comfortably in 5 years!

  11. Natalie says:

    I get why people are moving out. I come back to visit family here but I probably won’t come back to live. Too many people and too expensive, it’s losing it’s charm. It’s really sad seeing all the development. What will happen when the County is nothing except concrete and pavement? I guess then your tourist problem will be solved, because no one will want to come here anymore.

  12. Dennis Fox says:

    What we need to recognize is how tourism has changed County people and often not for the better – however, it is not always the fault of tourists…

    This past Friday my wife and I decided to go out for lunch for the first time since February. What I witnessed was not pleasant – a table of senior aged people(2 men, 2 women) were seated and were being harassed by a squirrel, with it running over their feet while they were eating, etc.. the darn thing was just too used to humans and would not go away – eventually someone at their table got annoyed and growled and swore at it (who wouldn’t?) – not a big deal for us and in the right light it could have been taken to be humorous.

    Unfortunately, two not so young men had come in just prior to all of this and took exception to the the growl and the swear word – they had no idea of what it was about – yet one started to berate this table of 4 and started telling them to get out, go back to where they came from, we don’t want you here, etc, tc… The four seniors replied – we are from the County and we live here! The response back to these people was unbelievable -“I don’t care, you are not welcomed here!” When asked where the two men were from – “none of your business!”

    The problem is that I know the rude one is from The County – a person who has no doubt benefited greatly from both tourists and taxpayers.

    I have on many occasions expressed concerns about the number of tourists and about the lack of money the municipality gains from it all – but never does it boil down to personal insults and public attacks on innocent people. What I witnessed should never have happened – it makes all of us look ridiculous and low class.

    As for the squirrel? He let one nut get away!

  13. Susan says:

    There are a lot of sales occuring. Get the big buck, get away from the mass influx, high taxes and the highest water/wastewater rates in Canada. Kinda makes sense.

  14. Kate says:

    We are moving because of the influx of visitors, proposed building and rising cost of houses here.

  15. Michelle says:

    I just wish they would now all go home and provide us a break. Dealing with Covid and this influx is a little over the top.

  16. Marie Powell says:

    LB, you can attempt to discredit the comments of other people by referring to them as “inane”, and by misrepresenting their content, but that does not change the experiences described within. Do you know what the Canadian ideal is to me? Being accepting of other people, but not accepting destructive and disrespectful behaviour.

  17. SaraLou Miller says:

    The big point made here is important “Sandbanks (Provincal Parks)is making alot of money at our expense. The Beaches are what tourists gravitate to with their families every summer So Yes if the Provincal Park scan’t provide ( by closing) to all of the tourists coming to their Parks, then they should be subsidizing the County for all the wear and tear that it is going through to handle the invasion every Summer.

  18. angela says:

    The locals are usually a tolerate bunch. Tourism is nothing new to the county and until this summer there has never been a flood of complaints. What we are hearing and reading about our tourists is not a smear campaign. It’s a fact that a large number of rude, disrespectful people invaded the county this summer and earned all of the bad press they are receiving as a consequence. Certainly some tourists are caring, respectful people who come and go causing no harm but this summer they are not in the majority. About the only persons still beating the drums for the swelling numbers of tourists in our county are those who stand to benefit from it financially. The rest of us just want them gone. Like house guests who have stayed too long they have worn out their welcome. And as for the poopetrators of foul deeds, once Wellington beach was a beautiful, natural area – waves,wind,and sand. Now, looking down Beach Street, the first thing one sees is a bright blue and white port-a-potty. Great that our summer visitors can use it but the beach looked a hundred times better before we had to add such conveniences to accommodate the invaders.

  19. LB says:

    Harry, I agree – Some of the respondents herein use aggressive verbiage in order to promote their opinions. Words like “disaster “ and “ruined forever” and many other broad brushed terms used to describe the current County situation to me are irresponsible.

    This is the problem I have: many of the general concerns made have some merit. But the smear campaign against tourism in general has gone to such an inane level that it dilutes the intended message and smothers any productive conversations about change. For example “tourists” are people who don’t live in the County and are those who: poop all over the place, leave our seniors for dead in the streets, destroy our nature and neighbourhoods, have destroyed the County way of life to the point of no return and are rude, indifferent to private property and are at best, only good for supporting an industry whose average income level is so low that no can live off it.

    Ultimately, what people are demanding is the introduction of more government imposed limitations on how people can use their private properties via laws, taxes, rules and enforcement. But not on their properties per se – but on others. They also want to limit local business traffic to the extent it doesn’t offend their sense what is an acceptable level. Some tourism ok but not too much. We’ll decide how much. They want to dictate.

    These aforementioned assaults on the Canadian ideal are far more offensive than a few or even many rude and inconsiderate tourists.

  20. Harry says:

    It is unfortunate that some people who visit the county are disrespectful to the place they have come to spend their valaubale vacation time and dollars. My wife and I have been visiting the county every year, sometimes twice a year for the last 15 years. We spend a week at a time and spend money in accommodations, restaurants, wineries, grocery stores, gas stations, tourist shops…need I go on? Describing the very people that you have tried to attract to the county as an “infestation” is equally disrespectful. The county, it might be argued is a victim of its own success but I submit to you that the vast majority of visitors treat the county and its inhabitants with respect and courtesy. We have met, over the years, so many hospitable and welcoming people in PEC and hope to do so in the future as well. I believe your sentiments are felt by the minority.

  21. John says:

    We do need to challenge the Council to look at a much more robust vision and sustainable tourism plan for the County- that would encompass the major components required to tackle the challenges , but also look at innovative opportunities in redefining the County Brand that all stakeholders can buy into . They will have to turn to others for help- otherwise we will end up with a quick fix Tourism Management plan – with a municipal approach versus that of Services Leadership for all stakeholders

  22. Teena says:

    Mr. Campbell…please tell me that, on top of the proposed cruise line tourists for our harbour, and the proposed tankers into our harbour, and the proposed additions to camp grounds, that you are also aware of the IRTH project being ,”proposed” in a quiet area of the County…? Geez. We aren’t being inundated with enough tourists in the summer? I retired here to live amongst farm land, not Disney Land!

  23. Marie Powell says:

    Dave, I’m happy for you that your experience with visitors has been so positive. I mean that sincerely. Having worked in the service industry in the County over the span of more than thirty years, and having lived in an area full of STAs for many of those years, I have to say my experience has been completely different than yours. I have enough stories of tourist mistreatment (some requiring police intervention) to fill the comment section for a couple of years — although sadly, according to Steve’s article, I only have about two months! (Darn it!)

    I’d have a lot more compassion for visitors if they showed even a little compassion for us and our surroundings. I agree that it’s terrible when people are cooped up with no freedom of movement or ability to visit the beach or other natural attractions. Just ask the majority of locals. They’ll tell you.

    While I don’t always agree with what Steve has to say, my impression is that he has a mind of his own and he’s above simple regurgitation. But hey, that’s just my observation.

  24. angela says:

    Give them a break, Dave? We are the ones who need the break from these unwanted guests. We were cooped up all winter, too, but we are not letting off steam with rude behaviour and a trail of garbage. What difference does it make if theoretically our homes are worth another $400,000? If we sell to cash in it is highly unlikely we will be able to afford to buy another place in the county. The tourists may bring cash but most of us never see a cent of it. The only people making money on them are the tourist operators, wineries, Air BnBs and restaurants. If 98 percent of our visitors are good people who do not want to do any harm, the remaining two percent must be hell on wheels to have done the damage we have seen here this summer.

  25. David Kresz says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I am new to the county myself ( from the jungle of Toronto) and understand the concerns we are having here in the County. I hope that we have not created a monster.
    David Kresz, Ameliasburgh

  26. olmnonthemtn says:

    RE: comment ”As for that ridiculous idea of a Bill of Rights, no one will take that seriously.”from Steve Campbell’s previous post “lets get really angry”

    Interesting the United Nations World Tourism Organization created a Code of Conduct for Responsible Tourism which reflects the County Bill of Rights. The Boston Globe reinforces the need for an international code which must be enforced with consequences https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/01/15/lifestyle/tourists-behaving-badly-its-time-enforce-an-international-tourism-code-conduct/. New Zealand has instituted a code and is reinforcing it. Venice has also created a list of unacceptable behaviour and consequences https://www.comune.venezia.it/en/content/enjoyrespectvenezia . Amsterdam has enjoy/respect Amsterdam principles which are posted in businesses and municipal services which involves stakeholders in policing and enforcement which are meeting with success https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/our-network/amsterdam-and-partners/news/2019/enjoy-and-respect.New Orleans they enforces their rights
    using tourist police

  27. Dave says:

    Steve, come on you can do better. The Sandbanks is not getting the “premium” visitors while the rest of PEC gets the “dregs”.

    The fact is that 98% of the visitors are very good in my experience and don’t want to do any harm, and they bring lots of CA$H. Yes there are a few bad eggs but understand this year is very extenuating circumstances and tourism should be back to normal next year, hopefully.

    We have all benefited from the tourist economy. Now your house has gone up in value by $400,000. So give them a break. They have been couped up in their apartments and now they can’t go anywhere else so show some compassion. Nobody wants rude guests but the rudeness goes two ways. I was at the boat launch the other day and some county woman was screaming obscenities at someone who had his out of town phone number on the side of his jet ski.

    Everyone is stressed out about the situation. The fact is that we are headed into a whopper of a depression and be thankful that the local economy is still going strong.

    Steve you are just regurgitating the anger in the comments from your last article.

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