Champlain council limits L'Orignal Beach access to locals only

Citing large numbers of visitors to L'Orignal Beach and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Champlain township council voted to prohibit access to the site by non-residents until further notice.

Beachgoers must now present ID at entrance

A sign warns L'Orignal Beach visitors to follow physical distancing rules while in the park. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

Township council is no longer allowing non-residents to use an eastern Ontario beach.

Anyone 13 or older who wants to take advantage of L'Orignal Beach must now present identification at the entrance from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Anyone without proof of residence in the Township of Champlain near Hawkesbury, Ont., won't be allowed to go to the beach and boaters who don't live there will also be barred from using the park's boat launch.

"We are faced with a situation where the beach is overcrowded, we cannot identify who comes from where," said mayor Normand Riopel during a virtual council meeting that took place last Thursday.

"By limiting access to residents only, we limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 in our community."

The new rule already seems to be working, noted Riopel.

"Let's say that the beach was very well controlled this weekend … There were very few people who showed up at the beach," he said.

Smoking, alcohol a concern

According to Riopel, COVID-19 wasn't the only reason council adopted the new rules. 

"You can't control the crowd, many people don't obey the smoking ban. Many people drink alcohol," he said. 

Alcohol consumption, smoking, vaping and dogs are prohibited at L'Orignal Beach. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

Champlain already has some measures in place to try to enforce the regulations at the beach, including a partnership with the Ontario Provincial Police. 

"We were able to control the crowd a little, but with the holidays we noticed an even larger number of visitors to the beach since our last meeting," said Lisa Burroughs, director of parks and recreation with the township.

"As a municipality, we no longer have the resources to manage crowds of this size and the OPP can't blitz for a whole month."

The township also includes communities such as Vankleek Hill.

Rules may hurt business, counselor says

The restriction was adopted almost unanimously last week, with Coun. Sarah Bigelow as the only objector.

"We must help businesses," she said. "By limiting the number of people who can go to the beach, I think that may be a problem."

Riopel conceded Bigelow raised valid concerns. 

"If it were not COVID-19, I would agree with [her] 100 per cent. Because the virus is circulating, we must ensure the safety of our residents."

With files from Radio-Canada's Denis Babin


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