Goderich waterfront and beaches reopen, raises question on safety measures

As the Goderich waterfront and beaches are reopening to public access, Huron OPP will continue to have a presence to enforce physical distancing measures. Lifeguards will not monitor the Goderich beaches this summer as it contradicts physical distancing measures. Kathleen Smith

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As part of the provincial government’s Stage 2 reopening plan, as of June 12 more facilities and services were given the all clear – that includes beaches in Ontario and at provincial parks.

On June 15 the Town of Goderich opened a section of its waterfront to the public by removing barricades that had been in place during the last several months of construction.

“If you look at the Main Beach on the weekend, there were lots of people and tourists down there. With COVID-19 we aren’t in normal times here,” Counc. Trevor Bazinet said at a recent Council meeting.

“We are living in a different world right now and that’s another concern of mine. With the construction going on – you have workers down there and we are inviting people to be around their work and there are some safety issues down there.”

According to Mayor John Grace the Town of Goderich primarily works under the provincial emergency plan and Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) directives.

“We maintain a strict policy to ensure the well being of our community maintaining safety measures first and foremost,” says Grace who explains that this applies to all facilities and public areas in Goderich.

Recognizing pent-up excitement of the community, Grace explains that waiting for the completion of construction of the waterfront was critical before opening the areas deemed appropriate.

Current revitalization work being completed at the waterfront as a result of heavy damage to the shoreline coincided with the emergency measures declared due to the pandemic. This resulted with restricted beach access to keep people safe until the province recently announced a list of approved areas to reopen.

“In regards to COVID and public health’s regulations and directives, I think we need to maintain our presence as far as making sure that the OPP do monitor, educate and work both beaches,” said Mayor John Grace as Cove Road reopened over the weekend allowing more access to the waterfront and beaches. Any areas that remain under construction will be fenced off to public access.

“I think it’s an opportunity to open it and get more social distancing. What we found on the beach on Saturday [June 20] at the Main Beach, I found it was stressful.”

The Town has continued to have discussions with Huron OPP since the provincial orders have been announced. The Town has requested Huron OPP continue to have a presence at the waterfront to ensure, if required, individuals receive tickets for violating provincial orders pertaining to physical distancing.

On the weekend of June 20 Goderich Main Beach was a busy spot in town and Huron OPP officers spoke to a number of different individuals to remind them of mandated safety measures amidst the pandemic. Some individuals were ticketed for infractions.

Grace added: “They [Huron OPP] were fairly happy with the social distancing at the Main Beach even though it did look crowded.”

Goderich falls into a region deemed low-risk and was recently permitted by the provincial government to officially enter into Stage 2 of reopening, which includes restaurants and retail shops as well as beaches.

As more restrictions are lifted, the question of safety remains a top priority, which raises the question – Who will enforce the waterfront in Goderich to ensure the safety of visitors to the beaches?

Goderich CAO Janice Hallahan explains that a bylaw enforcement company (MEU) is on contract with the Town. If needed at the waterfront, officers could enforce municipal bylaws only.

Hallahan added: “We do have money in the budget to deal with bylaw enforcement, whether that is MEU or our own contracted services personnel once they are hired.”

The interim bylaw officers will enforce municipal bylaws only, and Huron OPP remains the responsible unit for enforcing the safety measure of physical distancing through monitoring and educating individuals.

Goderich beaches this summer will not be monitored by lifeguards. Kathleen Smith

Additionally, in a recent report to Council, the YMCA will not provide lifeguarding services to waterfront operations this summer.

Recommendations from health units and the province in reference to waterfront operations reopening to public access is to only allow water-based recreation where physical distancing can be maintained.

A statement from the report made to Council, the YMCA said: “All of these requirements [physical distancing] for safe operation of a waterfront make it difficult for the YMCA to support with a guarding team in a way in which we are comfortable we can maintain staff and visitor safety.”

Lifeguards will not monitor visitors to the Goderich waterfront and beaches this summer, yet visitors will be monitored by Huron OPP to ensure physical distancing guidelines are being followed.

Grace explains that the Town continues to work with HPPH in conjunction with the County of Huron on all aspects regarding the reopening of municipal services, facilities and outreach to businesses. Furthermore, the Town is working diligently with all stakeholders from recreation and leisure, social agencies and the business sector for health and well being of Goderich.

Grace added: “Council is committed to supporting the whole community through recovery from this pandemic.”

Council and Town staff will continue to monitor the use and monitor the public while the province reopens. If individuals are not honouring the guidelines set out by the province, the Town will consider tightening up again.

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