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Municipal beaches reopen but come with more risks this year
File photo. Whitewater Lake Park beach in Azilda.
SUDBURY -- Municipal beaches are open to the public this year, but things won't look like they have in the past.
Washroom facilities at the Sudbury beaches remain closed, no lifeguards will be on duty, daily water checks will not be done and residents are urged to take extra precautions when taking advantage of these spaces.
"We're asking residents to use the area wisely," said Brendan Adair, manager of security and bylaw services for the City of Greater Sudbury.
"I'm a parent and I know that if I'm going to be venturing off to the beach with young ones that I'm going to have a close eye to make sure that I am that responsible parent and overseeing it. Likewise, if I'm using that area myself I am going to do so wisely and not try to go out too far."
Although lifeguards will not be on the beaches this summer, rescue equipment will be available in case of an emergency.
The city sent out a media release on Wednesday stating that although outdoor amenities were open, things will look different this year.
One reason being is student hiring will not be taking place and therefore the extra staff members are not available.
Adair says the city is happy the community can get outside and use these spaces again, but only if everyone follows the rules.
"We have been managing the enforcement of provincial legislation since the end of March, specific to social gatherings as well as non-essential business and to also support parks," said Adair.
"So with the allowance of these spaces being open there is a requirement for those that use to space to (A) go with just people of their household and when they're there they maintain a 2-metre distance from others."
Adair adds that bylaw officers will be checking public spaces like the beaches and "there are fines that are possible to be laid" if provincial rules aren't being followed.
With summer weather on the horizon, Adair expects beaches and parks will be quite busy, adding that parents need to plan ahead for a day-trip, especially with public washroom facilities still closed, at least for now.
"Through Park Services they are looking to explore options to open those facilities. So where families do choose to use our facilities in the parks, we hope that they plan ahead. I have a family as well, and if I'm venturing out for the day I need to make sure that my young ones use the washroom before they go."
When and if public washroom facilities will open is unknown at this time.
The city also stated that "daily inspections such as water safety checks will not occur," which means swimmers are at an increased risk if they choose to get in the water.
"The inspections that we're talking about through the parks department would be, for example, checking the bottom for any hazards like rocks or sharp objects. Those types of inspections aren't taking place currently and that's part of the message we'd like to get out there, is that we want to make sure people are using the area safely and understanding that these checks aren't being looked after right now," said Adair.
"So [people need] to use the area wisely and proceed with caution."
Although the parks department isn't conducting its "water safety checks," Public Health Sudbury and District will still be doing water quality testing at all 34 beaches in the area throughout the summer.
"Public Health Sudbury and Districts will be conducting its routine beach inspection and beach water testing as per the Ontario Public Health standards," said Ashley DeRocchis, an environmental support officer.
"However, in light of COVID-19 and the fact that some of our staff have been deployed, we will be re-examining the frequency in which some beaches are being tested."
DeRocchis says that the frequency of testing will be dependent on historical data and specific circumstances, adding that water testing typically happens weekly or monthly.
"Beach testing results will be available on our website, as well as information on blue-green algae blooms. We will still be notifying the public via the media should there be an adverse water result."
DeRocchis says it is hard to compare water quality from year-to-year, but last year the Sudbury area had four beaches posted with adverse water results.
Although beaches are open now, Public Health Sudbury and Districts does not start testing water quality for E. coli bacteria until June.
"Assessments are conducted mid-to-late June and that's essentially an assessment to determine whether the beach itself, as well as the water quality, is suitable to be bathing beaches. And then routine water testing will happen all of July and August."
Provincial restrictions on gatherings of no more than five people are still in place, as well as keeping a two-metre distance from those outside of your immediate household.
"We really do appreciate the impact that these types of rules have on the community, and again, we're going through this together," said Adair.
"We understand that it's been a trying time and that people are excited to get together and people are excited to use these spaces. We're happy to have them open, but we want to make sure that everyone of us is doing our part to make sure the positive numbers we've seen with the spread of COVID in our community continue."