After much discussion at their latest Board meeting, the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority will reopen some conservation areas beginning on Saturday, Apr. 25, 2020.
Cataraqui Conservation announced the closure of all its conservation areas on Tuesday, Apr. 7, 2020, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and observed activity that violated current social/physical distancing guidelines. Since then, there has been much discussion on the need to reopen the conservation areas, including at the Kingston City Council meeting on Tuesday, Apr. 21, 2020. The Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority and its Full Authority Board, including municipal representatives, met on Wednesday, Apr. 22, 2020, where the decision was made to reopen some of the conservation areas.
“Cataraqui Conservation and Full Authority Board (municipal representatives) recognize the health benefits our properties provide to watershed residents and take the safety of staff, visitors, and the community very seriously, especially during these unprecedented times,” Cataraqui Conservation said in a press release on Thursday, Apr. 23, 2020.
“Members and staff weighed all options, information available, and considered recommendations from many sources including the Province of Ontario, local municipalities, fellow conservation authorities, Ontario Public Health, local health officials (Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health) as well as feedback from the community to make this important decision.”
The conservation areas that will reopen will be based on the current status of COVID-19 cases in their respective areas. As the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington region’s number of cases appears to be levelling, this is not the case in all areas of the Cataraqui Conservation Region. As such, the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area in Brockville will not be reopening at this time, based on recommendations from the Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit.
“Staff and health officials will be monitoring local information closely and consider next steps and possible re-opening of these properties over the next few weeks,” the Conservation Authority said.
The following conservation areas will be reopened starting Saturday, Apr. 25, 2020:
- Cataraqui Trail (Strathcona to Smith Falls)
- Parrott’s Bay Conservation Area (Loyalist Township)
- Lemoine Point Conservation Area (City of Kingston)
- Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area (City of Kingston)
- Gould Lake Conservation Area (Township of South Frontenac)
- Lyn Valley Conservation Area (Township of Elizabethtown-Kitley)
- Marble Rock Conservation Area (Town of Gananoque)
Cataraqui Conservation indicated that the boat ramps on their properties will remain closed at this time, however, they are currently in discussions with their municipal partners regarding the reopening of boat ramps and next steps in doing so. Updates will be issued soon with regard to this, the Conservation Authority said.
The following measures are being put in place in order to facilitate a “safe and appropriate re-opening,” the Conservation Authority said:
- All trail users MUST practice physical distancing of at least two metres between yourself and other users, both on the trails and in parking areas
- Parking lots in certain areas will be reduced to limit visitor volume, please park in designated areas and adhere to no-parking signage (particularly at entrances, access roads and along municipal roads)
- All visitors must refrain from gathering in groups of five or more at any one time;
- All conservation area amenities (touch points) remain closed, this includes washrooms/privies, picnic benches, boardwalks, pavilions, benches, and beaches; and
- Please be kind and act responsibly.
All conservation area rules and regulations still apply, such as:
- Dogs MUST be leashed at all times
- Do not litter, including garbage, personal protective equipment (i.e. gloves, surgical masks) and pet waste
- Stay on the marked trails
- Conservation Areas are open only during daylight hours
The following closures remain in place:
- Marshlands Conservation Area due to narrow boardwalk that does not permit physical distancing (City of Kingston)
- Mac Johnson Wildlife Area on recommendations from Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit (City of Brockville)
- The Cataraqui Conservation Administration office (1641 Perth Rd., Kingston) is closed to the public until May 4. Staff remain available during regular business hours of 8:30 am to 4:30 pm by telephone or email.
- The Outdoor Centre at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area and the Nature Centre at the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area in Brockville remain closed to the public until May 4. This includes all education and weekend programs.
All Cataraqui Conservation staff, including watershed monitoring, corporate services, flood forecasting and warning, planning and permitting and education teams are working remotely, and are available by phone or email. Documentation related to planning and permitting applications can be left in the mailbox at the Administration Office, located at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area.
“With warmer weather on the way there is the possibility of increased visitation and demand on our properties,” Cataraqui Conservation said. “To help lessen the impact and prevent overcrowding please consider changing your visit times to off-peak hours, follow parking restrictions, and come back later if the parking lots are full. If trail users do not respect physical distancing, choose to meet in groups or access closed facilities, Cataraqui Conservation will consider additional appropriate control actions which may include closure of properties.”
The Conservation Authority said it will continue to monitor ongoing conditions during the pandemic, responses from the Province of Ontario, including local health officials, and provide updates on changes to operations and business continuity as they become available at www.crca.ca/coronavirus.