The May long weekend attracts thousands of beach lovers to Ontario’s cottage country, but this year two popular destinations were temporarily closed.
Kirby’s Beach and Bracebridge Bay Park were closed after glass shards and sewing needles were discovered.
Brad Hammond’s home is nestled along the waterfront at Kirby’s Beach.
“My family’s been in Muskoka since 1882,” he explained.
Hammond said this is the first time he’s seen the beach closed.
Several weeks ago, hazardous objects began turning up. Hammond’s wife spent eight to nine hours combing the beach herself and managed to fill a pail with her finds.
“It was pretty much the width of the beach but it was in clumps, so you could tell it had been seeded in different areas,” he said of the objects.
Residents have collected items from as far away as 60 feet from the shoreline.
The beach itself attracts thousands of people, including many young families with children.
“My wife found broken bottles sitting face-down with the jagged parts facing up. She found nails, sewing needles — a lot of sewing needles.”
On Monday, a diving team was brought in from Scuba Shack in nearby Gravenhurst. They were contacted by the town to conduct a search and cleanup of the shoreline.
“The gloves that they are wearing, I believe they all have Kevlar palms to them,” said Jane Mark of Scuba Shack.
“We also have handheld magnets, so that will help. From the glass perspective, we’re hoping that they’re more chunks.”
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith said the discovery of the needles and glass goes beyond what municipal staff would typically encounter after a spring melt.
What remains unclear is who is responsible.
“This was more obvious or deliberate than that. It was in a specified area and the sewing needles really are unlikely to appear here through any other means,” he told Global News.
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are now investigating the discovery and whether it may be linked to a disturbing letter that was mailed to the local newspaper, the Huntsville Forester.
“We need to make a determination whether or not it is directly associated to the threat that has been received,” said OPP Sergeant Peter Leon.
“And second of all, we need to determine who the author of this threat in fact was.”
WATCH: OPP investigating needles, broken glass found at Ontario beaches. Shallima Maharaj reports. (May 22)
Leon said police are working closely with regional municipalities.
“The beaches are a very important and a vital part of Ontario summer vacation life and we want to make sure that anybody who does venture out onto any of our beaches can do so safely and without compromise.”
The letter threatened the safety of beaches in the Muskoka region. It was titled “A Message from the Islamic Revolutionary Force,” although its legitimacy has yet to be confirmed by police.
Glass shards were also found on at least one beach in Gravenhurst last month.
Police have not confirmed any correlation between the letter and the appearance of the hazardous materials.
“Yes we have destroyed your beaches over the winter months with snowmobiles,” the letter reads, “making them unsafe and all but unusable.”
“We will destroy your beaches from Toronto to North Bay,” the letter goes on to say, alleging to have “started with the Muskokas.”
It claims the region makes for “easy targets.”
The letter, which was received by the paper on May 11, was then forwarded to the towns of Bracebridge and Gravenhurst. It was then sent to the OPP.
“I don’t know the legitimacy of it and it’s not my place to figure that out. It’s theirs [police],” Smith said. “So it’s in the right hands, so we’ll work with them to make sure that they get everything they need to make a determination of its legitimacy or if it’s just a hoax.”
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