Respect parking signs or risk parts of East Coast Trail closing, says association
Vehicles blocking roads in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove raised safety concerns
Shining sun, warmer temperatures and weeks of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic are attracting people to the East Coast Trail to the point that parking has become a safety issue.
"It was a bit crazy last Sunday, never seen anything like it," said Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Mayor Bert Hickey.
There are four access points to the trail in his community, at Memorial University's Ocean Sciences Centre, Red Cliff Road, Doran's Lane and Middle Cove Beach.
"Our roads were lined up on both sides with vehicles — people who were accessing the trails — and if an emergency vehicle needed to get to anyone's home beyond where the vehicles were lined up they weren't getting there," Hickey said Thursday.
He added that people were asking him to have vehicles towed or call police.
He said the only time the community sees something similar is when the capelin start rolling on the beaches, and the town brings in security personnel to manage parking.
Middle Cove Beach is closed to public use to prevent transmission of COVID-19, although the public can still access the East Coast Trail.
"We just want people to understand they're welcome to come down. We get it, we understand what they're going through right now. But you have to respect the safety aspect here and not park on both sides of the roads blocking emergency vehicles."
Hickey said they've installed new parking signs to help with the situation.
"That will immediately give people notice that you can't park here and that was something that we didn't have before and we didn't see the necessity of it before Sunday," he said.
If everything works out we should be able to keep hiking. If not, then we'll have to consider closing sections of the trail.- Randy Murphy
East Coast Trail Association president Randy Murphy agreed, calling it "the first and most critical measure" to alleviate safety concerns.
"So now the actual parking area near the trailheads at both Red Cliff Road and Doran's Lane have been defined," he said, noting if people don't comply their vehicle could end up being towed or ticketed.
Hickey said the town doesn't want to take that "hardline approach" but it will if people don't respect the signs.
Hiking hinges on good behaviour
Murphy said it's important people plan ahead, stay at least six feet apart from passing hikers on the trails, and respect local communities.
"When you arrive at a trailhead, if there's space at the trailhead to park, park and enjoy your hike and maintain social distancing," he said.
"If there's not, basically look at moving to one of our other path locations where there is parking capacity and enjoy your hike," or go home and try again later.
Murphy said the association will continue to assess hiker activity, and if there are concerns that can't be corrected, sections of the trail may have to be closed.
"Given the abundance of good weather we're having, people want to get out and get some fresh air and enjoy nature. And we don't blame them for that, we see the value in that," he said.
His message to hikers is clear.
"Please comply, and if everything works out we should be able to continue hiking. If not, then we'll have to consider closing sections of the trail."
With files from The St. John's Morning Show