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June 15 reopening date for Elgin County beaches may be delayed as talks continue

Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn said the previous target date for beaches' reopening was June 15, "but I don't think that's going to happen, because having (everything) coordinated in one week is very difficult.".
Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn said the previous target date for beaches' reopening was June 15, "but I don't think that's going to happen, because having (everything) coordinated in one week is very difficult.". Kevin Nielsen / Global News

Relaxing on a beach in southwestern Ontario may not be a possibility next weekend, as Elgin County officials hurry to discuss possible reopening plans for beaches this week amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn told Jess Brady on 980 CFPL’s Afternoon Show Friday the previous target date for beaches’ reopening was June 15, “but I don’t think that’s going to happen, because having (everything) coordinated in one week is very difficult.”

Dave Mennill, the Warden of Elgin County, told Mike Stubbs on 980 CFPL’s London Live Friday that they’ve assigned a task force that will begin discussions regarding possible guidelines starting Monday.

READ MORE: Ontario reports 415 new coronavirus cases, including 223 impacted by reporting delay

“(The) task force involves the county people as well as the mayors from municipalities that have beaches,” explained Mennill.

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“We’re also going to touch base with some of the beaches on Lake Ontario and Lake Huron to see how they’re handling it.”

He says he’s hoping a decision can be reached by Wednesday, and that the team is feeling “very pressured” to reopen beaches as soon as possible.

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Mennill says their biggest “dilemma” is: “How do we open the beach to reach the demand? But we also want to keep people safe.”

Mayor Martyn says there are “all kinds of signs on the beach now, but (some) people walk right past the signs and still go out on the beach, so our bylaw enforcement officers have been very busy asking them to leave.”

She says the team has looked at the European model, “with posts, ropes, nine square-metre sections, and you’d be assigned a section… but just the ropes and the posts would cost $50,000.”

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“There’s no way we could (afford) that; we’re struggling enough financially just due to COVID-19,” Martyn said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Town of Cobourg installs metal fencing at closed Victoria Beach

Safety is another major concern.

“We clean our beaches regularly with a beach cleaner, and there are times when we (find) things like hypodermic needles,” Martyn explained.

“If these ropes and posts went in, we couldn’t clean the beach with a beach cleaner, and also, for emergency (crews), how do they find their way through these ropes?”

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The mayor says they’re looking at other ideas including introducing a two-hour parking limit, but she says its unclear how that rule would be enforced.

Martyn says the same rules will in effect for every beach in the county, “so that (all) the beaches could open all at the same time, and not put pressure on one versus another.”

Mennill adds meetings with Southwest Public Health, OPP and hospitals have also taken place last week in regards to the reopening of beaches.