Ni­a­gara con­ser­va­tion au­thor­ity re­open­ing trails for pas­sive use

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Front Page - AL­LAN BENNER THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

Ni­a­gara Penin­sula Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity (NPCA) is tak­ing a phased-in ap­proach to re­open­ing its con­ser­va­tion ar­eas that had been shut down in re­sponse to the COVID-19 pan­demic.

As warmer tem­per­a­tures are ex­pected to ar­rive in the days to come, NPCA opened trails in 14 of its 42 con­ser­va­tion ar­eas Mon­day, al­low­ing pas­sive use of the fa­cil­i­ties, such as for dog walk­ing, hik­ing, bird­watch­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and cy­cling.

“The parks are not open per se, but the trails are,” said NPCA board chair Brenda John­son, while urg­ing peo­ple to use the fa­cil­i­ties re­spon­si­bly.

In ad­di­tion to fol­low­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines, she asked peo­ple us­ing trails not to leave any­thing be­hind.

“We’re ask­ing peo­ple what­ever you pack in, please pack back out again. Leave noth­ing but your foot­prints be­cause it puts our staff at risk when they have to go out and col­lect garbage, it puts our staff at risk when they have to go out and change garbage cans,” John­son said. “We’re ask­ing peo­ple to be re­spect­ful. If you want to en­joy na­ture, en­joy it, but please don’t leave any­thing be­hind.”

She also asked peo­ple us­ing fa­cil­i­ties to re­main on trails, un­less they need to step off to the side to al­low oth­ers to pass. Dogs must be on a leash and peo­ple are asked to pick up af­ter them.

“Yes, we know it’s the for­est, but pick up af­ter your dog.”

Con­ser­va­tion ar­eas that have re­opened in­clude: Gains­bor­ough; the Com­fort Maple in Pel­ham; the bog and wetlands con­ser­va­tion ar­eas, and the Gord Harry Trail in Wain­fleet,

Two Mile Creek and the Virgil Dams and Reser­voirs in Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake; Wil­loughby Marsh in Ni­a­gara Falls; Can­bor­ough in Dunnville, and Hed­ley For­est in Haldimand.

Although the boat launch at the E.C. Brown wetlands in Pel­ham re­mains closed for the time be­ing, its trails have re­opened.

The main Bin­brook park on Har­ri­son Road in Hamil­ton re­mains closed, too, although the trails through the Carolinian for­est at the site, as well as the

nearby Ty­ne­side Trail, have re­opened. John­son said open­ing re­main­ing fa­cil­i­ties will fol­low up­per-tier gov­ern­ment guide­lines.

“Our flag­ship (parks), they’re not go­ing to re­open. We’re go­ing to be phas­ing it in. But we have to take our guid­ance from the prov­ince.”

She said NPCA chose to close its fa­cil­i­ties en­tirely as the epi­demic be­gan to spread be­cause “peo­ple weren’t get­ting the so­cial dis­tanc­ing com­po­nent.”

“The parks and the trails were be­com­ing over in­un­dated with hik­ers and peo­ple who wanted to get out of the house.”

She said that also cre­ated park­ing prob­lems along some of the ru­ral and res­i­den­tial roads where con­ser­va­tion ar­eas are lo­cated.

“These are all ru­ral roads up there. You’ve got ditches on each side, so park­ing is not com­pat­i­ble. If you park too much over to the side, you could lit­er­ally open up your car door and drop down six feet.”

She said it was a con­cern for emer­gency work­ers, too, who might have dif­fi­culty nav­i­gat­ing ru­ral roads if there are too many ve­hi­cles parked.

“If there’s a house fire and peo­ple are park­ing on both sides of the road, ac­ces­si­bil­ity be­comes an is­sue.”

John­son said most peo­ple have been un­der­stand­ing about the full fa­cil­ity clo­sures, adding she has not re­ceived “a whole lot of push back about the trails, to be hon­est with you.”

How­ever, she said, over­lap­ping man­age­ment for some con­ser­va­tion ar­eas in Hamil­ton caused con­fu­sion for peo­ple.

BOB TYMCZYSZYN TORSTAR

A woman walks along the path of Two Mile Creek Con­ser­va­tion Area in Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake. Parks have be­gun to grad­u­ally re­open as the prov­ince has lifted some clo­sure rules.

BOB TYMCZYSZYN TORSTAR

Parks, such as the Com­fort Maple con­ser­va­tion area in Pel­ham, have be­gun to grad­u­ally re­open as the prov­ince has lifted some clo­sure rules.

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