The County’s four townships are keeping municipal boat launches open for now despite public concern about the possibility of people flouting social-distancing rules.

Algonquin Highlands, Dysart et al, Highlands East and Minden Hills have all said they are keeping boat launches open for now. But other jurisdictions across the province have made the call to close them due to the pandemic, including the neighbouring City of Kawartha Lakes.

Local municipal leaders have said they are closely monitoring boat launches. Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said the issue has been frustrating. She added the municipality sought clarification from the province regarding its order to close all outdoor amenities, and were told boat launches are considered essential only if they are used for transportation to primary residences, not recreational purposes.

“I’m currently engaged with people who are actively challenging or looking for ways around the order, and with the warmer weather coming the entire situation is only going to get worse. Many years’ experience – and a wee bit of cynicism – tells us that even if we put up ropes or barricades, people will move them,” Moffatt said.

Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said it is on their radar, but launches have not had any activity with lakes still frozen over. He noted it is also important emergency responders have access to boat launches.

“We’ve been monitoring and will continue to monitor,” Devolin said. “If it becomes problematic, then we’ll respond.”

Highlands East Mayor Dave Burton said in his years, he has not seen boat launches as a place where people congregate. He said the municipality is considering closing launches but added it will be difficult to enforce.

“It’s going to be a bit challenging. Not that we can’t do it, but it just takes a lot of staff time,” Burton said. “It’s a big decision and I don’t take it lightly.”

Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Robert said the municipality will continue to monitor the
situation, adding many launches are remote and allow only one vehicle at a time, so physical distancing is possible.

“It’s important to note that marinas are deemed non-essential and they can not do boat deliveries at this time. The only people that could launch a boat is someone who has it stored at their own home,” she said.

The County and local doctors have asked seasonal residents to stay home during this time to help prevent the spread of COVID19. Moffatt said many feel closing boat launches will restrict cottagers from being here, but she noted the authority to exclude people from their own properties falls on the province.

“There are too many moving parts and conflicting jurisdictions here,” she said. “The real shame is that instead of folks willingly working with us to do the right thing for the entire community, we have to spend time figuring out how to barricade and enforce. Marina owners are being hassled about the provincial order of their closure, and people are debating the definition of residency.”

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