The mayor of Wasaga Beach, Ont., said she’s “appalled” after visitors swarmed the town’s beachfront over the weekend, left a mess and violated the province’s current COVID-19 restrictions.
On Sunday, photos circulated on social media that showed trash — including plastic bottles, cups and cans — strewn about the town’s main beach areas. The garbage was from the previous day’s activities for which hundreds of people were reportedly present.
Ryan Siig and Paige Sheppard live about a 10-minute walk away from the beach and went for a bike ride on Sunday morning. It was then when they observed garbage thrown all around beach areas 1 and 2, as well as the boardwalk.
“I was disgusted that people leave this kind of mess,” Siig said.
Sheppard told Global News that she and Siig love living in Wasaga Beach, although she thinks it’s sad that people come to enjoy the waterfront and don’t throw out their garbage in bins or take it home with them.
“There’s a huge cleanup every morning after every weekend event like this,” Sheppard said, adding she heard there was a 200-person party the night before.
“We’re also disappointed that there was no enforcement to do with the COVID-19 restrictions that are in place. We have been isolating at home for as long as the restrictions have been in place and longer.”
Sheppard and Siig went to the beach for a swim on Saturday, but Sheppard said people weren’t social distancing or wearing masks. She also said large groups of people were present.
“It was way too busy for us to stay around,” Sheppard said. “I think we were the only masked people at the beach.”
On Monday, Wasaga Beach Mayor Nina Bifolchi said the town enjoys welcoming visitors but that they need to behave better, show respect and follow the rules.
“Residents are angry and rightly so,” she said in a statement. “Our town was not alone as several other waterfront communities across Ontario experienced similar alarming activity.
“Behaviour that leaves certain parts of our community looking like a landfill, behaviour that is disruptive to our residents and behaviour that puts public health at risk is simply not acceptable.”
Wasaga Beach officials meet regularly for discussions with the OPP and Ontario Parks. Officials said they will continue these conversations to make sure public health and safety needs are met and rules are enforced.
“If our provincial partners require additional resources this summer to protect our community and ensure public safety, then that is something we are happy to advocate for,” Bifolchi said.
“The provincial park, which includes the beachfront, is the jurisdiction of the province. The Government of Ontario — park wardens and OPP — have a duty to ensure the park’s safe operation.”