Tourism Management Plan to address parking, illegal camping and Rotary Beach congestion issues

Early day capacity at Sandbanks Provincial Park led to visitors exploring other shoreline areas to access water in 2020. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

Benefits for local residents and crowd congestion measures are part of the County of Prince Edward’s first attempt at a Tourism Management Plan for the summer of 2021.

The County provided media an overview of the mitigation strategy last week and will be offering local residents the same type of information on Tuesday via the County’s YouTube channel.

The plan, developed by the Destination Development and Marketing team in consultation with all relevant County departments, industry leaders, community partners and 1,400 survey responses, is a response to outcry from frustrated residents as well as visitors as the community was inundated with visitors in the summer of 2020.

Overfilled garbage receptacles were evident at Wellington’s Rotary Beach this weekend. (Sue Insley for the Gazette)

Wellington Rotary Beach is a linchpin in the plan however procedures surrounding parking and bylaws, garbage and washrooms, communications and visitor services at other locations are also addressed. 

While there were a myriad of purported reasons for a severe uptick in day and weekend visits, limits on international travel due to COVID-19 and more exposure to major markets certainly ramped up the tourism trade last year.

“While there is still some uncertainty what this summer will look like given COVID-19, we are much better prepared to manage and respond to high tourism volumes,” County of Prince Edward Mayor Steve Ferguson said. “This plan will not solve all of the issues overnight. However, we have focused on addressing the areas under the municipality’s control and working with our community partners to develop additional solutions.”

Staff presented a draft plan in January 2021. Council subsequently ratified elements of the plan as it received detailed reports that considered options that would benefit residents.

Significant new measures include additional parking and by-law enforcement, more garbage bins and enhanced garbage maintenance schedule, and increased enforcement of illegal camping. 

County residents will have free access to Wellington Rotary Beach. A $10 per person admission fee on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays for out-of-towners will be included the new fees and charges by-law going to Council on May 25. Capacity at the beach will be set at 350 people and be first come/first served. A temporary zoning change will allow for food trucks at the beach.

Residents can also get a discounted season pass for County boat launches. Boat launch hours at the  beach will be limited on the weekends and statutory holidays and closed completely between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In terms of other municipal boat launches, boat launch users now pay for parking, not for launching. Users will pay for parking through the Mackay Pay App or by displaying a seasonal boat launch pass and Boat launch season passes available with discount for residents.

Under the plan unveiled and to be brought before council later this month, the municipality will be engaging a private security firm to provide additional staffing for parking and by-law enforcement. The summer parking and enforcement Schedule is 7 days/week from May to October with hours from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and two-hour parking limits more rigorously enforced in Wellington’s core. The County is also expanding Seasonal No Parking zones in problem areas to reduce unsafe parking and trespassing and fines will be levied 7 days/week between May and October.

Increased enforcement for illegal Campers that chose to set up in parking lots and other non-designated areas is also coming as is bilingual signage to ensure there is no communication barrier.

The County its also pledging to clean up to its washrooms three times a day at high foot traffic areas, provide digital and print maps indicating where municipal washroom facilities are located and installing an increased number of garbage bins with an enhanced garbage maintenance schedule.

Open flame and coal BBQs will be prohibited in parks however propane cooking appliances will be permitted.

A Summer Hub website and communications campaign to help residents navigate the changes and plan for a better summer is also being built.

At the website, residents and visitors will be able to easily determine who to contact regarding common issues, parking guide and maps, Alerts & Notices for beaches and ferry, Wellington Rotary Beach info, Links to info on boat launches, beaches, by-laws parks, a summary of the Tourism Management Plan

The County is also expected to host regular resident surveys to “take the temperature” and learn about persistent challenges.