According to South Bruce Mayor, Janice Jackson, South Bruce Council was left with no option but to close Sauble Beach following what she termed on radio as “day-trippers who flagrantly disregarded pandemic restrictions at Sauble Beach”.
In June, Dr. Ian Arra, Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health, rescinded the order that had seen the closure of the area’s beaches prior to the May 24th Victoria Day long weekend, leaving it up to municipalities to decide their individual beach restrictions and/or access.
South Bruce Peninsula council previously voted on June 8th to re-open Sauble Beach for restricted, walk-through access only and just as a trial however, with approximately 10,000 people on the beach the restriction was almost impossible to enforce.
Mayor Jackson anticipates that the figure could see 60,000 on Canada Day long-weekend.
Unfortunately, given the high water level of Lake Huron, there is very little beach left.
Andrew James’ company James Special Services has been tasked with enforcing regulations and restrictions and ensuring security on the beach. “What has been observed over the past 12 days has been disregard for public health rules, Council rules and general health and safety protocols. The trial has failed but is not the fault of Council or by-law enforcement. The messaging on signage is felt to be unclear and for the most part is ignored. The residents appear to be following the rules. Most of the violators are day trippers or tourists,” said James at the Special Meeting of Council on June 22nd.
He added that “On the Canada Day long weekend there will be up to 15 officers dedicated to the beach. This past week they wrote 28 Provincial Offences Tickets and there were six officers dedicated to the beach this past week. With 4km of beach the officers have to stop at every person and disperse them to the water. Once they leave, the people are back on the beach. This is a repetitive process.”
James pointed out that over the past week he had “… two officers swarmed when they asked people to get into the water which then turned into a racism issue. It is not just about getting a ticket; when you tell people they can’t enjoy something they are used to enjoying, it is difficult. There have also been disorderly conduct charges laid against individuals.”
Although he said he couldn’t speak to the logistics of the OPP and their response time, he did say that, on June 21st, there was an assault on the beach that his officers resolved and the OPP didn’t respond for one hour. “We can’t rely on the OPP 100%. The biggest risk for fully opening will be the number of people who will come on Canada Day weekend. There is no beach to social distance.”
The motion was subsequently made and carried:
That Council directs staff to close Sauble Beach effective immediately and until such time as sufficient additional OPP assistance can be secured;
And further that a letter is sent to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services/Solicitor General seeking the assistance of the OPP to dedicate officers to South Bruce Peninsula.