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Traffic to Sandbanks backed up more than 3km and filling crossroad; beach closed

Residents living on routes to the beach were going no where fast early Saturday morning as traffic to Sandbanks Provincial Park filled East Lake Road and Kleinsteuber Parks crossroads. Traffic was also spilling from the Sandbanks entrance, all the way down County Road 18 and onto County Road 12, almost to Isaish Tubbs Resort.

These photographs were taken by a resident of the County Road 11 area at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The crossroad is about 3km from the Sandbanks Provincial Park entrance. Reports indicate traffic moved about 1km per hour. The park announced it is closed for day use at about 10:30 a.m. Traffic into North Beach is also significantly backed up. Closure expected this morning. Wellington Beach is also closed. – Lisa Kulcher-Heany photos

Traffic congesting Kleinsteuber Parks cross road at about 9:30 a.m. trying to get to East Lake Road heading to the Sandbanks entrance.

Traffic at the intersection of East Lake and Kleinsteuber Parks roads at 9:30 a.m. Saturday

Traffic about 3km from Sandbanks on East Lake Road

Those who didn’t get into the park are now clogging Stanley Street in Bloomfield – bumper to bumper from the stop sign at Main Street, to well past Vangrootheest Farm stand. – Dale Miller photo

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  1. Dave Thomas says:

    The spite directed by locals at daytrippers during these unprecedented times doesn’t align with “we’re all in this together”. The pandemic has overtly demonstrated the human need for connection with nature and the outdoors. Clearly the Province (provincial parks) and County (local parks and conservation areas) were caught flat-footed this summer, exasperated by the best weather in years. I would like to think this is a temporary problem but it would also be wrong to assume that the increased stress we have seen on facilities and infrastructure won’t persist or even increase going forward. Instead, we need to learn and respond accordingly. A couple of suggestions to get a constructive conversation going:

    1) The Province should install temporary digital signs on the 401 updating daytrippers of Sandbanks’ status well before they consider getting off the highway.

    2) Hire parking attendants to limit access to places like Little Bluff when the inevitable Sandbanks overflow comes looking for a place to swim. Pay students to pick up trash. Install conservation officers to keep people in line. Get the OPP involved.

    3) Study tourist destinations that have been dealing with these issues for years already (such as The Hamptons on Long Island) to learn how these areas have adapted.

    4) Improve or install the necessary infrastructure such as permanent washroom facilities and garbage disposal to handle increased usage and alleviate stresses on delicate ecosystems.

    The County isn’t the first nor will it be the last tourist destination that has been stressed to the max. I find all of this “Us vs. Them” talk deeply disquieting and not helpful at all. Frankly, it’s unCanadian. I’ve owned a place in the County for 15 years and have visited for longer, so I’ve seen the popularity build over the years just as any full-time resident. I’ve also seen very little done on the part of the County to adapt to the new reality. Little Bluff is a perfect example. Let’s learn from this summer’s debacle and vow to be better-prepared in the future. Pulling up the drawbridge over the moat may have stopped the invading hordes during the Middle Ages but it isn’t a 21st Century solution. The next time your kid needs to go to Sick Kids or you need to go to the Big City for an MRI (no doubt financed by donations from city slickers) keep in mind that we are a stronger and happier nation when we remember that we’re all in this together.

  2. Todd says:

    The Tourism industry, like many, has it pros and cons. The issue it the entitled attitude of many (not all)of those coming here. If you are coming here do your homework. Understand that the Sandbanks may fill up very early and you are not entitled to get in. Understand that if you go swimming in parts of lake Ontario it can be very dangerous and maybe you should stay out. Understand that you can’t just camp on private property or in a farmers field. Understand that there are slow moving tractors on the roads growing your food that you eat back in your city condo. It’s not the residents of The County’s responsibility to keep you safe or even welcome you here. Come, enjoy but stop thinking you are entitled to whatever you want. Respect those who have built their lives here with our without tourism. Respect the land. We don’t “need” city money as someone said. The County, and its people have seen many changes over hundreds of years, and this too shall pass.

  3. Marie Powell says:

    Some people have the perception that the tourists spend a “mega ton” of money while they are here, but this is certainly not an established fact. I have heard many complaints from local store owners over the past several years that sales figures are down, that tourists are browsing but not buying, and that they (the owners) can barely afford to keep the lights on. If tourists are coming to the County in massive numbers, and yet the local businesses are suffering, why are we continuing to tolerate this situation? If the local residents who pay extremely high property taxes are experiencing a diminishing quality of life, and the local businesses are not reaping adequate benefits, we need to seriously question whether the increasing numbers of tourists are a help or a hindrance. The idea that our County would collapse into ruins without being overrun by tourists is, in my opinion, an exaggerated myth.

  4. Dennis Fox says:

    I believe this conversation has taken a wrong turn. I don’t recall anyone claiming that the Provincial Parks belong solely to the people of PEC – but rather that PEC does belong to us and that most residents are feeling that we have had no say in what happens here. So let’s keep our focus clear on this issue – it is about how tourism has overwhelmed our community and a great many residents don’t like what is taking place.

    This particular article reports on the huge amount of traffic clogging our road system and going through our small towns and villages – our communities are being destroyed and yet some still want to pretend it isn’t happening and make misleading comments. It is time for some positive action by our elected people and by the business community, before permanent damage is done. I suspect real concern for our community is what is driving most of the comments to this article – not some “off-the wall” idea of controlling the Provincial Parks – as what is being promoted by some tourists on this site.

  5. Ferd says:

    This is a critically important issue which requires calm and informed input from many sides. I wish there were a more formal yet online format. The dialogue here is us versus them but should be just ‘us’ Yes, the pandemic is responsible for this year’s surge in tourist traffic, but the problem has mounted for decades. The Sandbanks entrance solution of `92 (https://www.ontario.ca/page/sandbanks-provincial-park-management-plan) may have been short-sighted but is now outdated. Local MPP Todd Smith says talks are under way to address the problem. Mayor Ferguson posted a reasonable clip on Facebook last week. He recommends visitors NOT come to the County on a whim as the experience will not prove enjoyable. Rather, book well in advance, use off-peak dates, try less-used attractions.

    In response to some comments below:
    “Stories like this [never] provide comfort to County residents.” The traffic is not a County problem but an imported problem that visitors cannot understand. When farmers (the backbone of this County and indeed this Country) are delayed access to harvest their time- and weather-sensitive crops; when EMS fail to reach a victim in time due to gridlock; when residents simply want to get home after a hard day’s work (my category) or get their mail; its an imported problem. Urban dwellers might take it in stride, but we live here to avoid that.
    A survey will show those who have driven 3-4 hours in solid traffic to wait 2 more at park entrances are not interested in wasting any time at a local store or restaurant. Rather, they stocked up everything before their journey and can’t wait to leave. I observed one driver in the line toss garbage from his window. The hero behind him got out, picked it up, and threw it back in the window. (Cheers!)
    Insensitive drivers, we witnessed cars parked on private lawns and blocked driveways. They often don’t pull far enough off the road to illegally park, which then causes all traffic to squeeze through a narrow gap. A $60 parking fine is no worse than what many experience in parking fees in downtown Toronto, so no discouragement there. Lets get serious. Subsidize/Loan Shantz Towing the funds to implement a pair of 8-car haulers, shuttling them to a compound on the heights with a $1000 impound fee. That message will get out.
    Concerning the County’s inability to survive without these tourist dollars, I suggest one look at the history of this county, post-settlement. Families who have diligently farmed these lands for two hundred years have continually been forced to endure the battle with tourism. (Admittedly, we were Toronto vacationers 50 years ago – but have now done our penitence I think) If the County were to properly penalize non-residents who own and operate airBnBs like disjointed hotels there might be affordable housing for local families and property values and taxes would stabilize once again. Its that quaint country lifestyle and peaceful demeanor which makes the County so enduring to visitors. The beach frenzy is more akin to chum in a fish pond.
    It was nonsense to suggest the PP Beaches are only for County residents or cottagers. Sharing is learned in Kindergarten. Managing traffic and economy is learned in public discussion.
    Visiting the peaceful countryside and respecting that way of life is not like attending a Leafs game. I do not believe that the entire population of this County moves downtown every weekend – or ever.
    The COVID issue is acidic. County residents will typically mask up and avoid each other, let alone visit Toronto for the weekend. When we do connect we are more cognizant of the rules, that is how we keep our death rate at nil.

    This article is merely us arguing with us. Those who are the meat of the problem do not read countyLive to learn how to not misbehave in the County. Its up to our officials to take immediate and decisive action and shift the rift.

  6. Dennis Fox says:

    To Davey – More money than us – hmm, doubt it – but we certainly (without any doubt) have more class. The difference between anyone visiting T.O. and those visiting here, is that those coming here want to stay, those going to Toronto can only manage it for a few hours at a time – watch the game or play then get out as fast as possible. Another difference is that when we go there, we actually spend money – when you come here – you guys are so tight you squeak! So I’m not sure what gives you the idea you have money?? I assume if you could afford Toronto, you would see all those game yourself – guess you can’t afford your own city. Another major difference with outsiders coming here is that they have no manners and a low standard of cleanliness – while clogging our roads they throw their garbage out the windows, ruin our towns and villages – and then leave. Frankly, we really don’t need you nor want you.

    Sorry mate, but I will make you a deal – if you agree to stay home, I will too.

  7. gilles says:

    It is plainly obvious that The County is in need of a Tourism Management Strategy, or a revision if one already exists.

    Since the Provincial Parks are financially supported by ALL the people of Ontario, there would be no legal way to close PEC’s Prov Parks to all but County residents.
    However, Sandbanks Prov Park is reportedly the 2nd most popular PP in the Ontario, drawing up to three-quarters of a million people to the park every year (Algonquin being the most popular, with one million visitors).

    A few suggestions:

    1) Re-open and staff the toll booth at the Lakeshore beach, and funnel the visitors to that beach through that gate.

    2) Forbid traffic direct entry into the main entrance from County Road 11. This road is the most densely populated of all roadway accesses to the PP, and line-ups (now 3km long, and counting) are blocking the driveways of residents. I would rather see this than the widening of this County road with another lane for waiting, and idling, cars.

    3) Re-open and staff the toll booth across from Martin’s River, dedicating it to seasonal pass holders, and already-registered campers, relieving the burden on the other gates.

    4) It’s time for the Province to step up to the plate in managing and regulating the usage of Point Petre, and the remainder of public properties along the south shore, before they are overwhelmed and ruined by overuse.

    These are just a few suggestions. I have many more.

  8. E Chase says:

    Perhaps the Provincial Parks system should _sell tickets online_ to prevent too many people showing up and clogging the roads with traffic for hours. These
    lineups look ridiculous. How can an emergency vehicle get through?

  9. angela says:

    Thank you Davey. Your comments clearly illustrate the attitude that has caused many locals to protest the hordes of tourists arriving in the county. Your sense of entitlement is showing. We are the poor rubes who could not afford to build SQUAT. Comments on this site in recent weeks clearly indicate that the locals have had their fill of traffic jams, garbage left behind by our “guests” and disrespect for areas like Little Bluff. No one has expressed concern at the potential loss of tourist dollars. Any benefits this year are being strongly outweighed by the problems created by our visitors. One day when the county is no longer “gorgeous” thanks to the invasion of what you call the “blow-ins” who seem intent on exploiting it, it will lose its charm. Our guests will blow out to enrich some other community with their garbage and bad manners. We are a destination, a novelty, the place to be. Today. Eventually, some other area will catch the fancy of the motoring public and it can’t happen soon enough/.

  10. JP says:

    Please, bring the car, bring the garbage, leave it everywhere in the parks or on the roads, add congestion and pollution. People live in the county so they can have a taste of the city… Soon we can have the city out here and do away with all the pesky trees and fresh air that nobody wants. #pavetheworld.

  11. Mike Rodgers says:

    With the comments about tourism bringing in big bucks and is needed to maintain the county, I guess we should see no property tax increase this year. And hopefully a reduction. This is of course if you believe that tourism is a god sent blessing.

  12. Davey Boyd says:

    The PEC area is absolutely gorgeous. We have friends who live there and are established in the fabric of the community, very well.

    From our travels out to visit them we have encountered traffic jams like no other. It is frustrating for us and it is hell for residents.

    Facts are facts. Sandbanks Provincial Park is for ALL to enjoy. Ontarians taxes are used to protect and regulate that park. There needs to be way more control and police presence to regulate county roads leading into the park and more park rangers to control the flow in and out and parking. Communication is key…..stop the flow once the park fills and only allow 1 out/1 in. Simple, right. The county’s own elected body is 100% responsible for the mess that happens. It was a sleepy little hollow 20 years ago and didn’t have the tax revenue to build SQUAT. Fact, house values have exploded and if you don’t like it, re-elect someone who will support your ideal and ban all new B+B or put a 15% tax premium on them….or sell and take your $65k lotto winnings and go further east. Fact, tourists are slobs and they’re entitled (in their own minds) but they do spend a mega ton of money in that region. Deny it all you want.

    Bottom line: vocalizing opinions here isn’t going to work. Call your friends and family and have them all call the mayor NON STOP, daily and vent till they agree to make changes.

    I am sincerely sorry that your Utopia has been discovered and destroyed by people with more money than all of you. But the city lobes the revenue, so good luck convincing friends NOT to sell and make huge bank….let us know how you do.

    P.S. cya next wknd folks.

  13. Ian says:

    As recent ‘blow ins’ from away who will eventually earn their livelihood from tourists, I’ve felt hesitant to be able to express my views without stirring up animosity amongst those on this and other community sites who resolutely refuse to acknowledge any benefit from the arrival of people like ourselves or the clients we will serve. Two years ago we chose to liquidate all of our assets, sell our business and move here from Europe with the intention of reestablishing our lives and business in a beautiful part of the world with great potential – we could have gone anywhere in the world but we chose here. Over this time we’ve been fortunate to meet many like minded people who have or are in the process of doing the same thing – all of whose businesses will succeed either directly or indirectly from the fact that the County attracts tourists with money to spend locally. All of us are taking considerable personal and financial risk to build our lives here and are genuinely committed to positively contributing to our local community. I’ve read comments from anti tourist contributors to this site derisively referring to new comers building ‘McMansions’ and I suppose we fall into this category which I have to admit to resenting. We have worked hard for many years and have chosen to invest the proceeds of that hard work here with local tradespeople, local suppliers, local artists, local lawyers and accountants. We will continue to invest in the local community, pay our taxes, spend the money we earn in local shops and restaurants, hire local people…all because our business will earn its revenue principally because it attracts and caters to tourists. It is disingenuous to choose to ignore those positives behind statements that the only people that benefit from tourists are those directly in the first line of where the money is spent…as if somehow this money is spirited out of the community and spent elsewhere.

    I genuinely understand that for many local people the changes that have come on the back of the County’s growing popularity are difficult and do need to be addressed but the solution isn’t to vilify or make scapegoats of tourists or the people who cater to them. The current pandemic clearly isn’t helping, people are rightly concerned about the potential impact on local health but I for one applaud the considerable attention and creativity that our local businesses have displayed to protect both their livelihoods and those who work for them whilst providing a safe environment for all. Whilst there will be irresponsible exceptions that must be addressed, for the most part I have not witnessed masses of tourists openly and with malice flouting current regulations or local businesses turning a blind eye in the quest for much needed revenue. We are all in this together, we are all learning how to adapt and function as best we can in challenging circumstances and we need now more than ever to show a little patience and understanding.

  14. John says:

    Nobody should be surprised this happened despite a plea from mayor Ferguson. The reality is that most provincial parks all over Ontario were fully booked this weekend including all the way up to Lake Superior. Most cottages are booked solid until early September. I bet most of these people didn’t know they wouldn’t get in. Hopefully they enjoyed the rest of the county as it is more than just beaches.

  15. Lucy says:

    One point we’re missing here is that Covid19 is not over. The beaches and boat launches are packed and there is very little regard for social distancing or masks. If the experts are right in their assumptions, then this scenario is just a ticking time bomb for County and Ontario residents. Less people than you think are heading to Toronto from the County, especially these days. No need to worry.

  16. Jill says:

    Locals will get their beaches back on the day after Labour day.

    Locals have the beaches to themselves for 10 months out of the year.

    There should be demand-variable pricing to ration the limited number of parking sports. Parking passes should be sold online so people know they have a spot before they come.

  17. Fred says:

    Yes, but as a good business owner they (as the Province) should not negatively affect the community where they conduct operations.

  18. Rick Honeyford says:

    So what no one commenting here seems to understand is that it is a provincial park that is owned by the people of Ontario. It was probably there before most of you owned your home’s. Just because you are located closer to it than people coming from out of town does not give you any more ownership of the park or the beach in the park. Do people in Toronto complain if you come here to see a play or hockey game? You are adding to the traffic here any time you come to town.

  19. angela says:

    We don’t need to encourage tourism/ We are already living with the unhappy results of overkill. First and foremost our county should be for its full-time residents. At present it is crammed with guests who have little or no respect for this community. The only people who are welcoming them with open arms are the tourist operators, vacation rental home owners, B and B operators etc. The rest of us are not being paid to put up with this invasion. We just have to endure it.

  20. LB says:

    Those people who sold their West Lake home could have elected to sell it to a young local family. Or they could have asked their broker for the estimated home value from the pre-tourist boom and gifted the difference + the $65k bonus back to the community instead of profiting from tourism and selling out their neighbours to even more tourists. For those who abhor tourists, when the time comes to sell your own home, donating part of your home’s tourism inflated value or selling it to locals only at a affordable housing price would be a great way to support County life.

  21. Chris says:

    With all due respect to county residents frustrated with the crowds at Sandbanks and North Beach on the weekends it’s worth reminding you that those are provincial parks and are paid for and for the enjoyment of anyone in this province – they’re not in fact ‘ the County’s’ beaches, so perhaps you may want to take a pause on all this talk of restricting access to locals. Municipal beaches, sure, go ahead, but not provincial parks. I would add that as frustrating as the tourist traffic has been this summer, consider how heavily dependent the region has become on tourist traffic you’re complaining about (surely you don’t believe it’s local traffic that’s bringing all these restaurants, wineries, breweries and such to the region and keeping them in business), and how many businesses would be suffering right now if they didn’t have the means to open this summer due to COVID. Referring to those same tourists that the region depends on to be viable as ‘pests’ or akin to a ‘swarm’ of bugs won’t serve the region well when things revert to Some form of normal and those tourists have other options for where to spend their money.

    Again, just suggesting that a little perspective may be needed here. Yes it’s annoying but people
    should recognize that this is a function of an extraordinary set of circumstances this year and probably won’t be repeated to the same degree. Besides in less than a month the tourists will be all gone and residents will have the County all to themselves again, as is the case for 8-9 months out of the year.

  22. Henri Garand says:

    My point is that the overcrowding suggests that tourist numbers are peaking. Residents are not comforted by dealing with the problems of over-tourism but may be comforted by the expectation of its ending for this season.

    The real issue is how tourism can be managed so it supports PEC’s economy but does not disrupt residents’ lives. Council should investigate what is a supportable number of tourists and how services can be better matched with demand. Negative media stories may be one way to discourage day trippers. Better law enforcement is needed to address all forms of tourist misbehavior.

  23. Margaret Whittleton says:

    We were out mid-day on Saturday to Northport and Demorestville. Lots of camping space (County Shores), and relatively little traffic. If we want to encourage tourism, we need to de-emphasize the beaches, and encourage visitors to visit other parts of the county. I know that the pandemic is limiting admission to our museums, but there are still things to do that don’t require sitting in traffic for hours.

  24. Susan says:

    The ignorant and intolerable day trippers have ruined the summer. Walking out of restaurants not paying, threatening bad reviews if not served immediately, urinating and feces on private property, multiple family members entering grocery stores, etc. Understandibly, residents have had enough. I never have seen anything like this in our community before.

  25. Dennis Fox says:

    I have never heard of tourists being compared to a plague of insects or animals – but it is a good comparison. However, like a previous comment, I too do not believe that any County resident finds comfort in dealing with any kind of plague – how ridiculous can one get?

    Close friends who live in West Lake, recently put their house up for sale because of the intrusion of tourists and their inability to get in and out of their own driveway on weekends! They ended up selling their house for $65K more than the asking price – apparently due to a price war. The problem is that it was bought by a Toronto lawyer who has no intention of living in it – he will rent it out as an AirBnB. So all in all, our community lost a couple of nice people who contributed to the stability of our community, but now the locals will have to deal with even more tourists – their noise, and garbage – all paid for by the same tax level as residents pay. Whoopee – what a place we are building!

  26. Lynne Rochon says:

    I think because the county scarred people last weekend, everyone came very early this weekend causing the backup.Plus a long weekend of course. Later this afternoon the roads were clear and cars were coming and going from the Sandbanks.

  27. In response to Henri Garand This is not comforting they come to the beach they go home. They don’t spend freaking money. They don’t shop. Now those that camp will buy food and normally have everything else they need and if it doesn’t rain the spend no more money.
    Ambulance can not manipulate well with these traffic jam’s and they are not on site. This means most response times will be about 1/2 hour and if that is life or death Life is most likely not an option. And Farmers and very frustrated

  28. angela says:

    They won’t learn. Mayor Ferguson tried and they turned a deaf ear to his request that the stay out of the county this weekend. The beach should be closed to all but local residents period. Maybe they would understand that. This was done on St. Catherines.

  29. Henri Garand says:

    Stories like this should actually provide some comfort to County residents. Due to the pandemic the number of tourists this year is like a natural explosion in the populations of certain insect species, birds, and mammals. One summer there may be a lot of goldfinches or rabbits, but the numbers decline the following year.

    I can’t imagine that anyone who has driven from Toronto for a day in the County will want to return after being denied access to Sandbanks by mid-morning. How many friends will then learn about the disappointment? Let’s hope mainstream as well as social media spread the news of overcrowding.

    Of course, any relief will probably be cyclical unless the story is kept alive every year and distributed early in the season.

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