The busy weekend pushed the town to close the Dorwin Falls and Cascades parks and a municipal beach to non-residents until June 30 to give it time to put a better system in place and ensure people can maintain physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. CP photo

As Quebec reopens, small towns and provincial parks brace for larger crowds

‘I’m 60 years old. I’m originally from Rawdon. I’ve rarely — rarely — seen something similar’

MONTREAL — Bruno Guilbault says he can’t remember seeing anything like it.

The mayor of Rawdon, Que., about 60 kilometres north of Montreal, said municipal parks on the Ouareau River were “overflowing” with out-of-towners last weekend, as the temperature hit 34 C.

The crowd was twice its usual size, Guilbault said, and even though Rawdon put signs up saying the parks were at capacity, people kept coming.

Many parked their cars haphazardly on residents’ lawns or near riverbanks, while large groups crowded together at various points on the water, said Guilbault.

“I’m 60 years old. I’m originally from Rawdon. I’ve rarely — rarely — seen something similar,” he said.

The busy weekend pushed the town to close the Dorwin Falls and Cascades parks and a municipal beach to non-residents until June 30 to give it time to put a better system in place and ensure people can maintain physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I think the decision was easy enough to make. We didn’t have a choice,” Guilbault said.

Most businesses have been allowed to gradually reopen across Quebec this month, as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths has decreased.

But the reopening has been met with some trepidation, especially in smaller towns outside Montreal, which was the epicentre of the province’s outbreak.

While many of those towns are welcoming the economic boost summer visitors bring, some residents fear an influx of tourists may put them at risk.

A petition launched on June 21 calls on the authorities in the Matawinie region of the Lanaudiere, of which Rawdon is a part, to prioritize the needs of local residents over tourists this summer.

With over 8,000 signatures so far, the petition decries “the outsiders who have taken our beautiful region hostage.”

On Thursday, Quebec’s public health director Horacio Arruda said the decrease in COVID-19 cases and deaths was good news for the province.

However he said people need to continue respecting physical distancing measures to avoid a potential second wave of the pandemic. “There is still a big need to be careful,” Arruda told reporters.

But with most Quebecers unable to travel outside of the province due to the pandemic, local tourist attractions may be busier than usual.

Simon Boivin, a spokesman for Quebec’s provincial parks network, known as SEPAQ, said many people have expressed a “keen interest” in visiting this year.

About 140,000 annual passes to SEPAQ’s 24 outdoor parks were sold in three days this week, Boivin said.

The passes were on sale for just over $40 – half the regular price – thanks to a $5-million investment from Quebec’s Tourism Department.

While the number of SEPAQ visitors is only released at the end of the season, Boivin said camping reservations between the end of June to the end of October are already up 11 per cent compared to last year.

“Summer is always a busy period for the SEPAQ network, but we effectively feel that it is more popular this year,” he said.

The parks have released an online checklist of health and safety precautions that people can take to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Information centres and other common areas inside the parks have physical distancing markers in place, and some trails have also been outfitted with signs letting hikers know if the paths are one-way or two-way.

Quebec’s Tourism Department said it is up to police to make sure rules around public safety and COVID-19 are respected, and that municipalities can also take steps to manage an influx of tourists.

“We’re confident that visitors will act in a way to ensure their safety and that of the places they will spend their vacations,” department spokeswoman Virginie Rompre said in an email.

Back in Rawdon, Guilbault said the town’s parks and beach will reopen to non-residents at 10 a.m. on June 30.

Additional security guards will be in place and the town has put up no-parking signs to direct visitors.

Guilbault said he is confident things will run more smoothly now, and fears of the region being taken hostage will not materialize. ”We don’t want any more overflows,” he said.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Manny’s Motel demolition underway. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
Manny’s Motel demolition underway

The property has been vacant since the fire that destroyed most of the structure Jan.14, 2020.

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read