Savvy Sandbanks visitors enjoying new day pass program

A car lineup outside Sandbanks in 2020. (Twitter photo)



With the summer season well underway Sandbanks Provincial Park’s new Superintendent Curt Morris addressed council during the July 18th Committee of the Whole Meeting (COTW).

Morris spoke to the success of the day-use reservation system and compared this season with that of 2020.

Morris noted he has 35 years of experience working for provincial parks, including Presqu’ile Provincial Park and Sibbald Point Provincial Park. He also pointed out he’s a frequent user of parks, including Sandbanks and North Beach.

“I’m a local guy from Trenton. I’ve been there 15 years. I am a frequent user of Sandbanks and North beach….I’m really enjoying this and some of the things that are problematic here are things I’ve dealt with in my career in the bigger parks such as Presqu’ile,” said Morris.

Pointing to Sibbald Point Park, that experienced severe congestion like Sandbanks, Morris noted the day-use reservation system has helped alleviate this.

“We’re pleased with our online day-use reservation system, which I think has helped the park and the County last year,” stated Morris. “One question I’ve been getting from local folks and visitors is whether this will stay in place. It is in fact here to stay. More parks have joined on with the program. I think that’s been popular and helped with the traffic congestion.

Morris also commented that the new reservation system has been welcomed by first responders, such as the OPP, paramedics, and the fire department. He noted a warm welcome has also been extended by many neighbours of the park.

“It’s been incredible the welcome I’ve received so far in the county and the help I’ve received not only from emergency services, but a lot of property owners who certainly had some underlying concerns,” he said.

Morris also stated many business owners have expressed support for the new system as well.

Speaking to an advantage of the new day-use pass system, Morris stated many visitors he has spoken to have printed their day pass, meaning they’re able to take advantage of the by-pass lane at Sandbanks rather than sitting in line.

Councillor Mike Harper. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“The advantage to Sandbanks is there are bypass lanes. If you print out your reservation, you don’t even see any park staff. We’re finding its working. There are obviously a few problems, but overall, I think it’s working really well. I’m very happy with what we’ve got,” he stated.

Morris noted that, so far, several tourism committees have reached out to him and invited him to sit on their committees.

“We’re all interested in the same thing,” he said.

Given the chaos of the 2020 summer season that brought a tidal wave of visitors to the area, Councillor Mike Harper inquired as to how many people are now showing up to the park and being turned away.

“How many people are showing up and having to be turned away? Is the awareness of the day pass catching on? Where are you sending them when they can’t get into the park?” asked Harper.

While Morris admitted some-approximately 100-were turned away this past weekend, that number pales in comparison to the hundreds that would have been turned away in previous years when the park had reached capacity.

“This past weekend, I stood in the line at the four corners just outside the park and I would say I probably turned away 100 vehicles while we were full to capacity,” stated Morris. “That is nowhere near the hundreds you were turning away in 2020. It is improving. We do still turn away some, but I think some of the visitors we’re turning away are not necessarily internet users.”

Councillor Kate MacNaughton inquired as to whether there had been any consideration given to allowing people into the parks in the morning and evening when, despite having reached capacity on paper, the park may be relatively vacant.

“I agree there’s been an improvement overall the past couple years even over pre- pandemic levels where there were areas of the beaches where the volume of people teetered on too much to handle for the natural area,” commented MacNaughton. “Will there be opportunities for the restrictions to be lightening later in the day or early in the morning for people who typically used the area in a very casual way?”

Morris responded that allowing people into the parks when it appears quieter does present a challenge, as some people who reserve a day-pass leave and then come back.

“People who make a reservation and arrive at the park, their pass is good from 8a.m. until 1 p.m. We do have a clientele who want to go in and experience the county life. They want wineries, restaurants etc., and in many cases want to come back,” Morris explained. “We have to be careful. If people want to come back, we have to make sure there’s still a spot for those folks who have booked a reservation. Now, realistically, do people get sunburnt and go home early? I believe so. What we’ve done is looked at this and tried to use common sense…if we take a 4p.m. sweep of the park and it looks like a lot of people have vacated there is a feeling this year that, certainly, if someone comes on Wednesday at 7p.m. and they’d like to walk their dog for half an hour, then we should allow that person a permit and get them into the park.”