Coronavirus: Sauble Beach will be closed again if social distancing ignored: mayor

A well-known beach in the town of South Bruce Peninsula, Ont., has reopened again amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the mayor says the beach will shut down again if visitors ignore social distancing guidelines.

Mayor Janice Jackson spoke with Mike Stubbs on 980 CFPL’s London Live with Mike Stubbs on Friday.

She said Sauble Beach reopened for the second time on July 3 after closing down around Victoria Day.

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“Leading up to the Canada Day weekend, we had a two-week trial to see if people would abide by all the COVID-19 regulations along with our town bylaws, but for two weekends in a row, it was just a total mess,” Jackson said.

“People were not adhering to any of these restrictions, so we shut the beach down.”

“(It) was a very, very challenging decision.”

Sauble Beach is located a little over 200 kilometres northwest of London.

On a typical long weekend, the beach will see 60,000 to 80,000 visitors, according to the mayor, which is why the decision was made to close it down before Canada Day.

Jackson says council held a meeting on July 2 and invited the medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Arra, with the Grey Bruce Health Unit.

“We were there for three hours, and Dr. Arra explained that he has everything under control here in our region, and he has no concerns at all for the spread of COVID-19, and if we were going into a jam, he would know very quickly and notify us,” the mayor said.

Council agreed to reopen the beach but not before preparing for extra safety measures to be put in place.

Jackson says these include gathering up thousands of masks for beach-goers to wear, as well as reaching out to OPP in hopes of hiring as many weekend officers as possible.

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“With messaging and added enforcement, we’re hoping that we’re going to make it through this weekend without too many incidents.

“If we have a problem in the next couple of weeks, we will definitely shut down for the Civic Holiday weekend.”

The mayor says the beach follows provincial guidelines for social distancing, which includes gathering in groups of 10 people or less.

“That was not happening — we were getting large groups of 20 and 30.”

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Jackson adds the beach is very narrow this year due to high waters, which have blocked off 30 to 40 per cent of the beach.

“The remaining beach is about five feet wide on average.”

“Because our beach is so narrow, it just takes somebody to spread out all of their paraphernalia, and they’ve blocked the beach completely and people can’t walk through,” said Jackson.

The mayor says while she understands the challenges of maintaining social distancing guidelines for visitors due to the small size of the beach, “we have to do it… we can’t take it lightly.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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