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Brief visits only at local conservation areas this Victoria Day weekend, UTRCA says

The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority and Fanshawe Conservation Area sign along Clarke Road, July 19, 2017. Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL File

Officials with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) are reminding residents that with the province’s COVID-19 emergency orders in effect, the unofficial start of the summer camping season will have to wait a bit longer at local conservation areas.

The conservation authority says because of the pandemic and limited parking, only brief visits to bike, hike, walk and enjoy nature will be allowed at Fanshawe Conservation Area this Victoria Day long weekend.

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We’re asking… that people just have a brief visit and then head out so other people can get an opportunity,” said Steve Sauder, Marketing Specialist with the UTRCA, in an interview Friday with 980 CFPL’s Devon Peacock.

The notice also applies to Pittock Conservation Area in Woodstock and Wildwood Conservation Area in St. Marys.

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“I think lots of people, especially on Saturday — it looks like the weather’s going to be a little nicer — will want to get out and and enjoy the outdoors.”

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Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 22 C on Saturday along with clear skies — prime camping and boating weather, in other words.

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“Right now, our camping and our boating is not open at this point,” Sauder said.

Also not open: washroom facilities, playgrounds, benches and picnic tables.

“We will have an announcement towards the end of next week of how we will phase in all the aspects of day use, boating, seasonal campers and overnight campers in a safe way,” Sauder added, referencing Thursday’s unveiling of the province’s stage one reopening plans.

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The conservation area plans to contact all of the seasonal staff members it hired in February to have those who still want to work with UTRCA come in for additional training, he said.

“We weren’t even sure if we’d be able to open at all this this summer. So this this is great.”

UTRCA is asking residents who visit the three conservation authorities to respect physical distancing and group size limits, and notes that vehicle access is restricted to lots near the gated areas.

More information can be found on the UTRCA’s website.

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The Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, meantime, says seasonal campgrounds at C.M. Wilson and Big Bend Conservation Areas will be reopened on May 22 at the earliest to allow campers to visit and care for trailers.

However, it notes that overnight and recreational use of the campgrounds will not be permitted.

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