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The Tourism Monster is back

Steve Campbell

For a change, since I was recently barbecued for trying to support equality in our society, I thought would try something that I’m sure all of us agree on: Big-time tourism is back, and we don’t really like it.
Sure, in the Old Days of 2019, I think most of us came to the realization that we were hosting too many people in our summer months, with no ability to control them. Last summer, the Sandbanks Park was closing at noon, and swarms of cars were heading out to every shore they could find in the County. They would hit Wellington Beach, and then North Beach, if they knew it was there.
Inventive people were finding that, with lack of proper accommodation facilities, they could just park their RV anywhere, and enjoy a free stay at Point Petre or one of our Conservation Areas. “Stay for free, leave your trash and diapers behind” should replace “The County: Ontario’s Secret” as a motto.

This is no joke. When I visited Point Petre last summer, there was a ‘caravan village’ set up on the shoulder. Trailers with awnings and barbecues and nice little patio set-ups.
Because we are a secret no more. And worse: Our secret places, where we go to get away, have also been invaded. In earlier days, I used to go to Huyck’s Point, and just sit and listen to the waves to clear my head and reconnect me to the eternal earth.
The last time I was there, I encountered a large group of drunks and a 20-foot bonfire. Not exactly what I was looking for, peace and solitude-wise.
That was the long ago, in 2019, but 2020 brought us a whole new problem. I’m not sure if you are yet aware (but if not, you heard it here first), we have a COVID crisis on our hands.
To us, everything has changed. Our numbers of infected stayed low and, thanks to the diligence of our residents, we have been COVID-free for more than two months. Masks are now mandatory when visiting retail stores and, in my experience, everyone (even tourists) seems to be abiding by the rules.
The Letters to the Editor warnings that allowing COVID-invested tourists in the County would be a replay of Night of the Living Dead, and we would all end up as shrivelled zombies, weaving our way through the stalled traffic in downtown Picton, turned out to more fear than fact.
Still, we do have our problems. To me, tourists fall into two categories: A) People who are just glad to get out of the city, and will do whatever they need to do during their visit, and B) People who are jerks, and who probably are hated by everyone else on their street in their GTA suburb, because they are colossal jerks wherever they go.

If it pleases the court, I would like to enter into evidence the amazing increase in horn-honking during the summer months. Sure, I understand the occasional beep to a friend on the sidewalk, when he doesn’t happen to see the One-Finger Wave.
But leaning on the horn only means one thing: The city people are here. Nobody in the County leans heavily on their horn to indicate their displeasure at your attempt to turn onto Main Street.
I was making a right turn out of Metro, and caught an opening while someone crossed the crosswalk, as the tourist-driven vehicle started to move. No problem. This guy came roaring up behind me at high speed and high brake, with horn-ablaring.
I study people a lot, but this I do not get. Any thoughts from our readers might help. What is the mentality behind this? He was stopped at a crosswalk, and seemed to be really upset that, because of me, he was eight feet behind the stopped traffic at the liquor store lights. I really can’t see the psychology behind that.
I do understand that the Category B tourists only use two of their vehicle utilities: The horn and the gas pedal. And maybe the radio. God forbid you should brake. Maybe slow down a touch when a new vehicle enters your vision? Hell no! I’ll teach him to pull in front of me … once I catch up to him!

This is what I like to call, “Hurry up and relax”. This is the tendency to really power through the slow and annoying parts of your day as fast and as aggressively as you can, so you can get your damn food and your damn liquor and beer and your damn firewood so you can damn-well get home and enjoy your vacation.
It’s a strange concept to me. I’m the kind of guy who comes out of Toronto in high heat and stopped traffic and says, “Hey, at least I’m getting great gas mileage at 5 kph.”
On the homefront, we are dealing with this well. I think that wearing masks is a good thing. No evidence is in hand that says this is effective. People with respiratory problems are exempt from the County’s ruling.
But the upside is big. It allows us to interact without fear, while still maintaining social distancing. Whether any of this makes any difference will be written in the history books. But compare the County to any state in the U.S.? We’re doing something right.

No matter how we look at it, every decision-making group is dealing with a new deck of cards. Close this, open that. Watch for results.
I have heard there are cases of people urinating and defecating – pretty much wherever they are. We had this fight with Bloomfield’s public washroom. We allowed food and drink in the village, by take-out and eventually patio service, but kept the washrooms closed. This left the retail shops, like mine, to bear the brunt of people in need of facilities, in a village which is run with septic tanks.
We’ve all been there – overpowering urge in the digestive/urinary tract, and nowhere to ‘go’. How can I turn them away? Yet I had to clean and sanitize after every visit by a stranger.
It took several weeks, but the County finally decided to open our public facilities, though it wasn’t easy for them – they had to clean and sterilize twice a day, and that takes County staff.
I don’t fault the County. There are so many horses and carts out there that, occasionally, the cart comes first. To their credit, when the Bloomfield washrooms opened, I watched a guy in a hazmat suit – like he was gathering radioactive material – in 31ºC temps, cleaning the toilets. If that guy didn’t get hazard pay, there’s something wrong with this world.

The long and short of it is: We have entertained the same volume of visitors as last summer, but in a COVID crisis. Chaos ensues. Tension is high between locals and tourists, and the behaviour of the Category Bs moves us from annoyance to hatred. It doesn’t help that the construction crew at the liquor store lights seem to be digging up and burying the same piece of road, over and over again, with flagmen who are apparently oblivious to the flow of traffic.
But on the other hand, I’m getting great gas mileage at 0 kph.

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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