BY JOHN WILSON
More than two months after it was temporarily closed to the public due to the COVID-19, Rattray Marsh in Mississauga has now reopened, along with several other conservation areas managed by Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). A number of critical steps have been taken on CVC properties as they undertake a staged reopening.
Conservation staff have have been trained in new safety protocols and practices, such as staff no longer sharing vehicles and sanitizing equipment between users. CVC staff have also inspected and maintained nearly one hundred kilometres of trails for hazards and safety concerns. Signage has been changed at CVC properties to promote physical distancing and other safety protocols, such as no gatherings. Critically, CVC will also be limiting the number of visitors who can visit parks at any one time by closing the gates once properties are at capacity to manage the number of visitors.
Some parks that cannot meet physical distancing guidelines due to the size of boardwalks and viewing platforms, will consequently remain closed for the time being. CVC is also providing sanitation stations for visitors to use at high traffic areas. The vast majority of visitors have adhered to physical distancing rules, CVC’s Market ing and Communications Specialist Jamie Williams said earlier this week. “Those who don’t”, he says, “are reminded by CVC staff of the requirements.
This has been received well and the compliance is high.” Williams also emphasizes the difference between provincial conservation reserves and the conservation areas CVC manages. Local conservation areas are owned and operated by conservation authorities and funded by a healthy mix of municipal government funding, private donations and user fees. Conservation reserves, on the other hand, are owned, operated and funded by the provincial government, via the Ontario Parks agency. Conservation Reserves are passive, understaffed properties with no amenities or programming. Their primary purpose is protection, hunting / trapping and scientific research. They provide for hiking, but visitor data is not collected or available.
Conservation Areas are a blend of passive and active properties, with various recreational activities, staff, amenities, programming and events. Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities collectively own and operate over 500 Conservation Areas with a total area of more than 150,000 hectares, making Conservation Authorities one of the largest property owners in the Province. Nearly 300 Conservation Areas are accessible to the public.
They play an important environmental, educational and recreational role in Ontario, and contribute to the physical and mental well-being of over seven million visitors annually. A full list of what green spaces are open or closed is available at cvc.ca.