Counting the hours to the Victoria Day long weekend is almost a rite of passage in Ontario as residents unofficially launch the summer season.
Well, all that was turned on its head last May due to COVID-19, and here we are again.
The stay-at-home order that was extended until June 2 means a litany of rules that health officials and politicians are urging Ontarians to abide by, with fears large gatherings this holiday weekend could spike the COVID-19 case count which has been on a steady decline.
The forecast suggests there will be a decent amount of sunshine during the long weekend, albeit with a slim chance of some showers, and temperatures peaking in the low to mid 20s; it could be a tad cool for a splash in the lake but probably not a turn-off for those who want to frolic on one of Ontario’s sandy shorelines.
Barrie’s waterfront parks and beaches will be open but off-limits to tents and personal barbecues as well as sunshades and tents, unless they have only one supporting pole and one wall or side.
Throngs of people jammed Barrie’s beaches last summer, many coming from areas where parks and beaches were closed because of tighter restrictions.
Orillia officials are urging people to keep the stay-at-home order in mind and travel for only essential reasons.
Docks are not installed at Couchiching Beach Park and Collins.
Beaches in Orillia are open for walk through access only, and parks and trails are available for people who want to exercise.
If anyone was thinking of plopping themselves down on a beach in Innisfil, be aware the town has once again implemented measures to keep crowds to a limit and to promote physical distancing.
As of Friday, May 21, parking at Innisfil Beach Park will be for residents only. A staff-controlled parking gate will be installed at the entrance to the park to regulate access on weekends. This will continue until June 27, after which it will be controlled seven days a week until the fall.
The town is imposing other measures at the park to promote physical distancing and address overcrowding including keeping its “beaches in motion” policy in play again this year; the policy, put in place last summer, allows only active play on the sand area of the beach, meaning no sunbathing or the setting up of chairs. Barbeques and other cooking implements have been prohibited, and physical distancing circles will be painted on grassy areas.
Wasaga Beach Provincial Park manages the beaches in Wasaga Beach, and while there is no shortage of surf and sand, the public is being urged to visit a local park or conservation area where they live during the stay-at-home order.
Beach Areas 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6, as well as New Wasaga and Allenwood Beach Areas will be open.
In fact, provincially owned and operated parks are open but overnight camping is prohibited for most people.
In Oro-Medonte, signage has been posted at parks including those on the waterfront reminding the public to be mindful of COVID-19 protocols. Parking permits are being issued to residents only.
Under the stay-at-home rule, people who have a cottage or secondary residence are being urged to avoid making the trip this weekend unless it is for an essential purpose like emergency maintenance.
Despite pleas from the medical community and many municipalities, it is unlikely the Ford government is going to reopen outdoor recreational amenities before June 2, such as golf courses and tennis courts.
If you were planning to hold a May long weekend party, gathering limits are zero both indoors and outdoors including your backyard unless those people live in the same household.
At a media briefing on Tuesday, Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner said people need to stay home despite the fact it’s a long weekend and people have traditionally gone elsewhere.