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Mayor takes Sandbanks traffic and tourism concerns to MPPs

With traffic and tourism concerns taking their toll on Prince Edward County and its residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, local politicians are meeting to discuss ideas and solutions.

The Civic Holiday weekend was a breaking point for many residents living on beach routes whose driveways were blocked by bumber-to-bumper traffic lining roads and crossroads leading to Sandbanks Provincial Park.

“A key point made this morning is that by its nature and owing to its location within a two-hour drive to about eight million people, Sandbanks must be managed differently than other parks in the provincial park system,” said PEC Mayor Steve Ferguson.

Ferguson said discussion Wednesday focused on Sandbanks Provincial Park and local concerns – including long lineups extending from the entrance by several kilometres, environmental concerns, early closures, stress on municipal infrastructure and services, and the overflow of park visitors to other areas of the municipality.

Participants included Jeff Yurek, Minister of The Environment Conservation and Parks, Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith, Athol councillor Jamie Forrester and local business owners Dean Foster and Peter Morch.

“This meeting will be followed by a virtual meeting with Minister Yurek next week during the AMO conference during which additional information will be provided and other matters discussed – including a gate levy to benefit the municipality,” said Ferguson. “I very much appreciate the ministers’ attention to this matter.”

Todd Smith also noted he was pleased with the meeting.

“We had a productive conversation on managing visitors to the County’s beaches and tourist attractions in a way that balances safety and our local economy.”

In late July, following meetings between Smith and Ferguson, seven signs were posted eastbound and westbound on Hwy 401 to alert visitors to the status of Sandbanks. Additional signage was rented for use at the entrances to the County of Hwy. 33 and County Road 49.

Signs are also being placed on either side of Wellington once that beach parking lot is full.

This followed news Quinte Conservation closed the Little Bluff Conservation Area due to overcrowding on the beach, people not physical distancing and non-permitted activities such as garbage dumping, campfires and overnight camping.

No parking signs have also been placed at waterfront locations commonly accessed from municipal roads.

Mayor Ferguson is also seeking council’s support for a tourism management plan to be created by staff no later than spring next year that balances the needs of visitors and the rights of residents. That discussion is to take place during Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

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  1. Ruth says:

    Since it’s an ONTARIO provincial park, why not limit day use to the people who reside in Ontario. Limiting Quebec day-trippers would cut visitors down by 70%. Anyone who attends Sandbanks knows that the majority of its clients are from Quebec not Toronto. I live near by and have been going on Fridays with my cousin and was upset to be told that we would not be allowed in after the beach is full, even though the beach empties around 2/3 when the Quebecois head home, as in the past it had been okay to come in the afternoon. Last Friday a group of young Quebecois people were being incredibly ignorant, drinking cans of beer and leaving them in the sand. When the rangers came by, they refused to clean it up and got kicked out. When we left that day, we went over and cleaned up all their cans, but were told we could not enter this week because late comers arent welcome anymore…there are more good people out there than arseholes. Sandbanks gets busy EVERY year, this isnt new to covid. Canadas population is growing, everyone is being affected by it. Canadians every where are looking for safe ways to get outside, when other towns and places continue to close their beaches out of an irrational fear of Toronto people, they limit everyone else’s choices. I think we all need to be kind and considerate to people. I love Quebec and it’s people, but maybe bc this is an Ontario park, we should during covid cater to the people of Ontario.

    Also, the last 2 weeks of July and first of August are the busiest weeks in the summer. Those are over now. Let’s just try to be kinder to people. Not all of us are blessed to have a house in the county.

  2. Nicole says:

    Sam’s idea is the best one.

  3. Sam says:

    Other locations in the world like the Sandbanks have installed off-site parking, shuttle trains between parking and the attraction, and reservations for day visitor peak load periods. The shuttles move people and their day supplies, remove congestion from nearby roads, and open those roads to nearby stores, shops, markets, and residents. Plus, it reduces the impact of vehicles on the park proper. Only vehicles with camping reservations enter the park.

  4. Casey says:

    What would really help are signs that inform drivers how long of a wait they will have, when the parks are closed and give them some info or brochures of what they can do in the county so they can spend more and support various local businesses. The parks might be full but for that amount of traffic, all the other wineries and restaurants should be full. Time to spread bthe wealth around a bit.

  5. Chica says:

    I think pre paid parking and booking is one good approach. If for any reason a few people leave early it only means maybe some locals can enjoy their own beaches and parks. Make it a no exception rule. Buy parking, beach permits and park entrance tickets on line or no entry. Once sold out its done. Do the same for the small beaches like little bluffs and keep numbers very small. I think you should also keep a percentage of the tickets available for local residents only and local kids. There should be excessive fines over 300 dollars for parking on road sides…blocking driveways when lined up on in traffic…littering and going to the washroom outside and camping in restricted areas. It must be policed and enforced heavily however and that revenue will surely pay for itself. Word will get out fast. To be honest this will ruin the county and people will move on in a few years creating another Wasaga beach tourist town of crap. We can soon be the Fort Lauderdale of Canada. All the good people will move on. Just stop being afraid of tourists not coming and make it difficult for people. You will never have a shortage it would be the least of your worries.

  6. Em says:

    They should sell tickets online or in a phone App. It’s so polluting to have all those cars idling for kilometres of traffic jam. Unacceptable. Or offer people the opportunity to park and ride a bike into the Beach.

  7. Joe says:

    Online pre purchase of Sandbanks hourly parking permits and demand based variable pricing. No need to line up.

    Visitors will know they can get in before they leave their homes and will be incentivized to visit at less popular times.

    Already successfully implemented in Green P parking in Toronto.

  8. Roger Schmidt says:

    I spoke to council last year about speeding and aggressive drivers on hwy 33 and the result was an insult. Highway speeds were reduced in several areas except the area where I live, between the village of carrying place and consecon. This summer has seen so many close calls trying to get out of our driveway it caused more deep concerns. The sheer volume puts us in jeopardy. My neighbour moved for the safety and security of their children. I do hope that politics don’t play a part in favoring just those who live close the the park.

  9. Dan says:

    This is bad eh. Worst it has ever been. Lots of people enjoy the county without making a mess, adding to the noise and acting ignorantly. Lots of those good people now live here. The numbers of visitors was bound to increase, but I too am appalled by folks who have found us and have no interest in treating the county and it’s people with respect.

    Like Mr. Rogers says, when there is trouble, look for the helpers. I’ve said this before, but thank you very much to the folks who spend their own time picking up garbage around the county. I saw 3 people I know have lived here for generations along county road 1 this morning at spots picking up garbage. Anyway, thanks again to the helpers.

    A tourism management plan won’t minimize ignorant people, it will just tax everyone. This is a necessary step in the county’s growth but it will not solve all of our problems.

  10. Marie Powell says:

    I hope that the formation of a tourism management plan will include the means to monitor vulnerable and abused areas of the County and enforce regulations, including those bylaws which are already in place and commonly ignored. As we have plainly seen, we can’t put rules in place and expect that they will be followed. The pervasive disregard for the environment and lack of empathy for local residents will not go away. We’ve got to find a way to mitigate the harm being done to this beautiful place and its people.

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