Beachfront property owners decide Port Dover should stay closed despite move to Stage 2

Though Haldimand and Norfolk are entering Stage 2 of the province's re-opening plan, the landowners of Port Dover beach say it'll stay closed because they can't open the area safely.

Landowners say they're 'not in a position to safely open the area'

Despite the province allowing beaches to reopen, the landowners of Port Dover beach are keeping it closed until they feel they can open safely. (Google)

Local families that own Port Dover beachfront properties have decided to keep the beach closed for now.

As part of entering Stage 2, the province says that Port Dover beach is allowed to open. But the decision is in the landowners' hands — and they've decided it'll stay closed. 

The majority of the beach is owned by the local families, who say they are "not in a position to safely open the area."

Haldimand and Norfolk entered Stage 2 of the province's opening plan on Friday, part of which allows communities to open their beaches.

But on Thursday, Norfolk County announced the continuing closure after the owners consulted with the community and the Port Dover Board of Trade. 

Norfolk County only owns 66 feet of the Port Dover beach at the end of Walker Street with the rest of beach access allowed by the landowners. The county will keep its area closed as well.

Port Dover beach is a well-known local tourist destination and sunny, day-trip getaway for those in the area. 

In a Facebook post, the councillor who represents Port Dover, Amy Martin said that the beach is "graciously 'gifted' to tourists, beach goers, and community members" by the families for "the betterment of [the] community." 

"These landowners have come to the decision that the beach should remain closed at this time to protect the community and ease into a gradual reopening for the summer season," she wrote. 

"I stand behind them and offer them my full support....to make the decision that is best for them at this time." 

In Norfolk County's announcement , Mayor Kristal Chopp said that they are pleased to be re-opening, but respects the owners' decision to keep the beach closed. 

"The re-opening of area businesses, services and public spaces should only happen when it is safe to do so and when the parties involved are fully prepared. That's why we fully support the owners' decision to delay the opening of the Port Dover beach," she said.  

Contentions on re-opening 

When Haldimand and Norfolk were left out of the province's initial wave of re-openings that began last Friday, Chopp and Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt staged a protest in defiance. 

The two mayors wore masks and sat approximately two metres apart as two people, who were also wearing masks, cut their hair. Hewitt said that the move was about them fighting for local business owners. 

In response, Premier Doug Ford referenced past concerns from the communities about banning cottagers during the pandemic.

Haldimand-Norfolk's medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai issued an order in April that forbid people from outside the area from accessing their "secondary residences." He maintained that it was important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

That Section 22 order has since been lifted, permitting the approximately 4,300 people who have secondary residences in Haldimand and Norfolk to use them. 

Municipal beaches and piers in Haldimand and Norfolk will re-open on Friday, including the beaches at Turkey Point Provincial Park and Long Point Provincial Park. 

The online post adds that bylaw officers will be monitoring the public to ensure people are social distancing and following the rules.