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‘I hope to have them open by next weekend’: Elgin County Warden on area beaches
LONDON, ONT. -- Beaches in Southwestern Ontario remain closed, but if Elgin County's warden has his way, they could be open by next weekend.
"We have a joint task force led by Central Elgin which was formed on Friday," says Dave Mennill, warden for Elgin County.
Central Elgin initially put out the date June 15 as a possible opening, but took a step back Friday when they had an operations meeting.
"The task force has representatives from all the municipalities that have beaches in the county. We want uniform approach to make sure everyone is following the same rules."
It fears if it opens before Grand Bend, or other regional beaches the region could be flooded with outside visitors.
He says the emergency operations team will meet this week and he hopes that maybe by next weekend they could be open.
Mennill says they have bounced around some ideas, but relying on people to be responsible seems to be the best bet at this point.
"The European model is stake nine-square metres but with a cost of about $50,000 and making beach cleaning difficult, that might not be feasible in Elgin County," adds Mennill.
"Other options are having by-law officers counting numbers on the beach but that is difficult too. Our hope is to put signs up and hope people remain in small groups with family members. If there is an infection you are keeping it to small group."
In Port Stanley, the public washrooms are now open but both main and little beach remain on lockdown. By-law officials are on patrol to either give warnings or tickets.
Businesses that rely heavily on beach traffic are waiting for the reopening.
"We need the beach to be open, but also need public to participate in the opening," says Carol Gates, owner of GT's on the Beach and chair of the Port Stanley Business Improvement Area.
"We will ask each member of the public to enjoy it in a reasonable way. Maybe by coming less often or coming for a shorter time. They could come on a weekday instead of weekend."
Gates says the businesses throughout the village need the beaches open to draw more visitors.
"We are dying to serve, and dying to welcome everyone back, but in a safe way."
Some positive news for people in the region is that other amenities are slowly starting to reopen.
The pier in Port Bruce opened for fishing as of Friday. Saturday morning there were about two dozen people in chairs with their lines in the water.
Edward Jamieson and his son were taking a drive from London, and found out when arriving at the pier was open.
"It's really exciting to get out because it's crazy staying at home," says Jamieson who caught a jumbo yellow perch early in the day.
"Biggest one I ever caught here in Port Bruce," says Jamieson.
And if beach lovers get their way, they maybe be able to catch some rays soon.