Toronto

Don't drive to Lake Simcoe for long weekend day trips amid COVID-19, GTA residents told

This May long weekend is not the time for Greater Toronto Area residents to head north for the day, say the leaders of municipalities that surround Lake Simcoe.

'The virus has not yet been contained,' leaders of Lake Simcoe municipalities say

A person walks along the Lake Simcoe shoreline in Innisfil Beach Park in Innisfil, Ont. (Submitted by Town of Innisfil)

This May long weekend is not the time for Greater Toronto Area residents to head north for the day, say leaders of municipalities that surround Lake Simcoe.

Mayors of Orillia, the towns of Georgina, Innisfil and Bradford West Gwillimbury, and the townships of Brock, Oro-Medonte and Ramara, along with the warden of Simcoe County, are all urging GTA residents to stay put to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19, as the pandemic continues.

"Ontario has made steady progress to overcome COVID-19, but the virus has not yet been contained," the municipal leaders said in a news release.

When stopping for gas or food during day trips, residents from cities in the GTA could pass COVID-19 onto other people in local communities. GTA residents should skip the drive for now, the municipal leaders said.

"It is crucial that all Ontario residents follow the advice of public health experts to limit the opportunity for community transmission of COVID-19," they added.

The leaders said their message is aimed at day-trippers. It's vitally important, they added, for GTA residents to consider the potentially negative impact of out-of-town visits on local communities, emergency services and healt-care facilities.

If travel is unnecessary, it should be avoided, they said.

A bird flies over Lake Simcoe near trees in Innisfil Beach Park in Innisfil, Ont. (Submitted by Town of Innisfil)

Plus, they said, outdoor amenities in their municipalities, including picnic tables, boat launches and parking lots, are still off limits. That means day-trippers will be disappointed because there will be nothing to do. 

Under provincial directives, such amenities as washrooms, playgrounds, water taps and beaches, continue to be closed.

While the Ontario government has opened provincial parks, municipal parks are not yet open. 

Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin said it's perfectly natural for GTA residents to want to come north on the long weekend. In previous years, residents would come to municipalities along the Lake Simcoe shoreline to hike, swim, have a picnic, launch a boat or paddle in a canoe, but this year is different, she said.

"I strongly encourage all visitors to do the responsible thing and stay home. We look forward to welcoming everyone back and celebrating when it is safe to do so," Dollin said in the release.

An aerial view of Innisfil Beach Park shows the shimmering water of Lake Simcoe. (Submitted by Town of Innisfil)

Georgina Mayor Margaret Quirk agreed, saying Lake Simcoe is usually a popular destination.

"We certainly understand that people want to get outside, but driving here now with your family, with everything closed, including our restrooms, it's just not worth the trip. Once it is safe to do so, we all will be able to enjoy our beautiful lakefront once again," Quirk said in the release.

Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke added: "For the time being, please listen to the advice of our public health officials and stay home. We're all in this together and we will get through this together."

As for cottagers, Harry Hughes, mayor of the Township of Oro-Medonte, said property owners are urged to follow provincial public health directives.

"To limit the spread of COVID-19, the premier encourages people visiting their cottages to follow the advice and guidance of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, stock-up on supplies needed before heading to cottage county, and go directly to their properties without stopping on route in other municipalities," Hughes said.  

Residents urged to visit virtually through online portal

If GTA residents ignore the request to stay home and decide to go up north, the municipal leaders recommended that they do the following:

  • Visit the website of the municipality you plan to visit for local updates. "You may find that beaches, boat launches, public washrooms, and other park amenities are closed or restricted." 
  • Bring what you need to limit exposure and reduce community transmission of the virus. 
  • Practise physical distancing as required.

County of Simcoe Warden George Cornell said GTA residents can visit the county online through its web portal.

"As our communities and economy begin the guided process of reopening, it's vital that we take a cautious approach, avoid gatherings, stay home as much as possible in our primary residence and do all we can to support our recovery," Cornell said.

On Monday, the Ontario government reopened 520 provincial parks and conservation reserves, and on Friday, it will reopen the remaining 115 for "limited day-use activities."

According to the government, camping is not permitted at any provincial park or conservation reserve. All buildings and facilities, including washrooms, water taps, campgrounds, back country campsites, roofed accommodations, playgrounds and beaches, continue to be closed.

With files from Metro Morning

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