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Hamilton’s Spencer Gorge reopens to visitors, by reservation only

Reservations will be required for those planning to visit to Spencer Gorge when it opens up on Sept. 19, 2020. Lisa Polewski / Global News

Just in time for the fall colours, the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) will reopen the Spencer Gorge conservation area this weekend.

The outdoor recreation area and its falls were closed earlier this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, due to their limited size and capacity for physical distancing, according to the agency.

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To control the size of crowds and address the concerns of Greensville residents about trespassing and illegal parking, they will reopen by reservation only, on Sept.19.

A scheduled visit will allow for one two-hour hike, rain or shine, to either Webster’s Falls, or Dundas Peak and just Tews Falls on a weekend or weekday.

The reservations times are at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 3 p.m. daily.

Read more: Hamilton’s Spencer Gorge to reopen by reservation only, conservation authority says

The HCA was unable to run the shuttle bus service this year, due to safety concerns for visitors around physical distancing and sanitizing of the bus, said chairman Lloyd Ferguson.

He adds “this move to a mandatory reservation system will manage visitor numbers for physical distancing and provide a safe and equitable way to enjoy a hike in the area.”

The cost for the hikes will be $10 per car and $5 per passenger, with a $10 reservation fee tacked on. HCA season pass holders will get free admission but will have to pay the reservation fee.

Read more: Hefty new fines approved for illegal parking near Spencer Gorge, Webster Falls

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Walk-ups or drive-ups will not be permitted. Parking fines for violators are $250 within what the City of Hamilton has deemed a special enforcement area.

Ferguson says “bylaw [officers] will be out, actively enforcing that, throughout the fall.”

The city began opening waterfalls and outdoor recreational areas in mid-July as Hamilton began its move into Stage 3 of the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

However, Tews Falls, Websters Falls and Dundas Peak stayed closed since shuttle services were not available due to the novel coronavirus.