OPINION: A problem in the parks

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By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: A problem in the parks
One of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission Beaches along the Long Sault Parkway (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

Last week, I weighed in on an issue that I had received a lot of feedback about from readers, noise from vehicles, this week, I want to use this space to talk about another issue I’ve been sent a lot of emails about.

Our parks, beaches and other public spaces are a great asset to all of us. The parks of Cornwall and the St. Lawrence Parks Commission (SLPC) in the United Counties of SD&G raise the value of our properties, driver tourism, generate tax revenue and that is all without mentioning the positive impact that these outdoor spaces have on the physical and mental health of those who enjoy them.

Our enjoyment of these spaces has been hindered in 2020. First, like many other amenities, our parks were closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, now that they are re-opened however, the ability of local residents to enjoy the parks, especially SLPC parks, is being impaired.

This past weekend, parks opened at 10 a.m. and I was told by an eye witness that before they were even opened, the beaches along the Long Sault Parkway were already near capacity.

Here is one example of a part of a letter sent to me by a reader, who forwarded that letter to local mayors, MPP, the Premier and the SLPC.

“The white elephant here that is not being addressed is the cross border travelling of Quebecers in to Cornwall Area beaches and parks,” the letter reads. “They are coming even after being told the Parkway is closed/ the beaches and Parks are closed. They bring their campers and gather in groups larger than 10, they trash the parks, leave their garbage, and because these parks don’t have bathrooms, they have voided and left excrement on the parks grounds, The Quebecers have also gone into local residence backyards to defecate etc.”

One eye witness this past Sunday said they did witness many Quebec plates in the parks and beaches at the Long Sault Parkway. They said that they saw one driver pass a car on the Parkway while going 120 km/h putting other drivers and the many cyclists who frequent the Parkway at risk. These individuals also took the liberty of littering the Parkway with garbage thrown from their car window.

I want readers to first understand that tourism is a major economic driver in our region, and that we want to be welcoming to our visitors, however, our own residents also should have every right to enjoy parks and beaches that their tax dollars pay for.

I believe that many of those who come into our parks and beaches, whether they are from Ontario or Quebec, are good Samaritans. Those who do not respect these outdoor spaces, park rules, and local property must be better, but there will always be bad actors.

It is ultimately the responsibility of the provincial government and the SLPC to police these properties to ensure that the rules are respected for everyone’s enjoyment.

Especially in the era of COVID-19 when social distancing is so important our parks should be made safe for us to enjoy. Our local governments took steps to ensure that we can support and enjoy our local businesses and the same must be done for our parks and beaches.

Overcrowding, littering, and dangerous and disrespectful behaviour must end. This weekend, MPP Lisa McLeod, provincial Minister of Tourism announced a $7.1 million investment in the SLPC, must use some of this money to hire individuals to patrol the parks.

To address the issue of overcrowding, I think that the SLPC should introduce a strict reservation system. Our parks are more popular than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic and this hot summer season, that being said, everyone deserves a chance to enjoy them.

The system would be first come, first served with a 30-minute grace period for those who are late. Each reservation could be for up to three hours.

Things can not continue the way they are for the rest of the summer. Residents of Cornwall and SD&G who pay their taxes to fund these parks are not able to enjoy them the way they should and our local elected officials, such as MPP Jim McDonell, must take steps to address these issues.

What do you think of this problem? Email me a Letter to the Editor at nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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