Advertisement

Cottage country mayors urge extreme long weekend caution to protect locals from coronavirus

Mayors from two B.C. and Ontario cottage communities are urging out-of-town cottage owners to use extreme caution if heading to their properties over the long weekend.
Mayors from two B.C. and Ontario cottage communities are urging out-of-town cottage owners to use extreme caution if heading to their properties over the long weekend. Getty Images

Mayors from two Canadian cottage country regions are urging property owners to think carefully about whether they need to come up this upcoming long weekend.

And if they do, owners should act like they have coronavirus in order to protect locals, the mayors say.

READ MORE: Cottage communities eye summer season constrained by coronavirus measures

“Treat yourself as if you’ve got the virus, and [think] how do you not spread the virus,” said Phil Harding, mayor of the Muskoka Lakes Township, in an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson.

The May long weekend has long stood as the unofficial start to Canadian summer as thousands head to seasonal properties across the country for the first time since the winter ended.

It’s traditionally the first chance to reopen shuttered cottages and cabins, and to do the requisite regular maintenance needed to keep insurance policies valid.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Can I visit my Ontario cottage on the May long weekend?

But smaller communities have been grappling with fears about what an influx of out-of-towners could mean for their limited medical facilities, along with older populations of permanent residents.

As a result, many have been asking non-permanent residents to stay away.

“For the first six to eight weeks of this pandemic, it’s definitely been ‘stay home,'” Harding said when asked what his message has been to cottagers in the region. “But what we realized is, in particular Muskoka Lakes, 80 to 85 per cent of our residents are seasonal and they want to check on their residences.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Now, he says he realizes many will be coming up over the long weekend or in the near future, and is urging people to take every possible precaution — like buying supplies before driving up and not going out in public unless they absolutely have to do so.

‘As long as they can do it safely and responsibly, we’re encouraging people to be able to do so but if they can stay home, I think that’s the first message,” Harding said.

The situation in Muskoka and more easily-accessible cottage regions is also going to be different from more distant regions, or those with more limited travel routes.

Story continues below advertisement
‘The way we can help one another right now is not to engage in non-essential travel’ Health minister on Victoria Day travel
‘The way we can help one another right now is not to engage in non-essential travel’ Health minister on Victoria Day travel

One of those is the community of Sechelt, located on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.

It’s a village of largely older residents but also a large number of seasonal residents who have to use a ferry to get to the 9,000-person community and their cabins in the area.

Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers said while the community won’t be enforcing bans on out-of-towners, she hopes anyone who does feel the need to come up will take precautions to keep the community safe.

“Fifty per cent of our population are seniors and we have a lot of immunocomprised residents,” she said in the same interview segment with Harding.

“If the second-home owners feel the need to come here, please restrict your access to our residents, bring your supplies with you and ensure that if you have to go out, you maintain all of the physical distancing measures.”

Story continues below advertisement

Siegers echoed the advice being given by B.C. Tourism: visit, but later.

But she said it remains to be seen whether people will heed that advice.

“We don’t know how that message is going to be taken by the greater population.”

Premier John Horgan on support for B.C. tourism industry to recover from COVID-19 crisis
Premier John Horgan on support for B.C. tourism industry to recover from COVID-19 crisis