By John Francis
In a lot of ways, it’s going to be like the 1960s — everybody’s broke and there won’t be any tourists until at least June.
But that’s more of a punch line than a serious comment. What we actually have is a nasty combination of feast and famine.
The tourism sector is definitely in a difficult position, waiting with crossed fingers for details of the government’s stimulus package and wondering if COVID 19 will change the way Canada does recreation. An article in the Toronto Star last week predicted that somewhere between 10% and 20% of the city’s restaurants will not re-open after the pandemic. Will the same pattern apply on the peninsula?
The Airbnb sector, already nervous because of proposed municipal regulation, has been unceremoniously shut down by provincial decree.
Mayor Milt McIver predicts a sudden explosion of visitors if the pandemic restrictions are lifted during the summer but that is months away at best.
The construction sector, by contrast, is still going flat out. Residential construction has been declared an essential service, as long as all permits are already in place.
Various other service sector businesses — food stores, banks, the pharmacy — continue at full speed.
A little closer to home, I can tell you that the newspaper business is fine (for now; fingers crossed) but printing and signmaking are way down. We too await the details of the stimulus package.
But the biggest industry on the peninsula — retirement — is as busy as ever. Its funding is completely unaffected by COVID 19.
However, the recreational infrastructure that makes life in general, and retirement in particular, a pleasure on the Bruce Peninsula — from restaurants to tennis courts to the Bruce Trail to the beaches — are all closed.
How will this affect things? What will people do?
One answer is in already. Kara and Kyle Hellyer tell me they’ve had to limit quantities of yeast. It sells out almost as fast as toilet paper but its purpose is entirely recreational. Everybody is making their own bread.
When the weather warms up, I’m betting that everybody will have a garden. (With five greenhouses full of plants, Don and Wendy Cameron are REALLY hoping I’m right about this.)
But what else can we do that preserves physical distancing? Hiking sounds like a good answer until you think about the crowds at the Grotto, at Halfway Log Dump, at Lion’s Head Provincial Nature Reserve and so many other places — and on the trails leading to and from them. They would get crowded, which is why the National Parks and the Bruce Trail are closed until further notice. We can walk around on the roads for exercise, but what will we do for fun?
Boats. Canoes. Kayaks.
Once you get away from the dock, physical distance is easy.
But will there be any ramps to launch the boats from? It would appear that marinas are closed so moorage is a problem. Boat launches are federal and nobody is quite sure whether they are lumped in with marinas or a separate item. Stay tuned.
But for those of us with access to a bit of water, canoes, kayaks and small boats may be the best part of our summer.