MNBP Reporter’s Notebook Are We Open?

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    By John Francis

    Northern Bruce Peninsula was closed, mostly, until Thursday afternoon, June 4, when the Premier and Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Vic Fedeli, announced: “Short term rentals including lodges, cabins, cottages, homes, condominiums and B&Bs will be allowed to resume operations in Ontario starting June 5 at 12:01 a.m.”

    Some STAs were already operating in defiance of the lockdown; others have opened in response to the announcement; still others are remaining closed until they have more clarity concerning what they are and are not allowed to offer.

    Motels and hotels were already open although the restrictions and regulations on their industry are somewhat ambiguous.

    Campgrounds are only allowed to accommodate seasonal tenants at this time. 

    Some restaurants are open for take-out, but none are yet offering indoor or even outdoor table service. MNBP Council’s

    June 8 Agenda includes a request for Council support from the Lion’s Head Inn which is applying to the AGCO for permission to extend their serving area to include their lawn; this would allow much better physical distancing.

    All retail outlets in MNBP are permitted to be open but not all are open. Some are not opening at all this year, others are not open yet, or are offering curbside pickup only for phone or online orders.

    Divers Den in Tobermory is running physically-distanced SCUBA charters.

    Tobermory’s tour boats are waiting for passenger vessel restrictions to be relaxed and for Parks Canada to open Flowerpot Island.

    The Chi-Cheemaun ferry to Manitoulin Island began operating on June 1. It is running the spring schedule of two trips per day and is open to commercial vehicles and “essential travel”. Owen Sound Transportation Company CEO Susan Schrempf says that OSTC staff “worked hard to get appropriate operational protocols in place to ensure we would be able to keep commercial transportation going”. The first week’s traffic was sparse and mainly commercial, varying between 60 and 100 vehicles per day. “On the plus side, this relatively quiet period gives our crew and shore staff the opportunity to hone our pandemic procedures before we have larger numbers of passengers on board.”

    Schrempf is hopeful that the summer will be better. “There’s a lot of public interest in taking the ferry and passengers are making reservations for the summer in anticipation of stage 2 re-openings. Customers understand that June operations are in support of essential travel, and we are all hopeful that unrestricted travel will be permitted very soon.” OSTC expects to make an announcement shortly about its summer schedule. 

    For residents and cottagers looking for something to do, Parks Canada have opened a few locations (see story page 3) but the Bruce Trail through the park remains closed.

    The rest of the Bruce Trail on the peninsula is open, as are the municipal parking lots that accommodate those trail sections.

    Municipal buildings remain closed but outdoor facilities such as baseball fields, picnic areas and tennis courts, are open. 

    Physical distancing is still required for all activities.

    MNBP’s May 25 Council Meeting was almost entirely routine and ended in near-record time. Under Other Business, Councillor Megan Myles filed a Notice of Motion on the subject of improving broadband service in the municipality. Her Motion reads, in part: “the lack of high-speed internet in our Municipality is a barrier to: 1) local youth (approximately 30%) participating in online learning; 2)local businesses competing in the online marketplace; 3) local residents working from home and staying socially connected; and 4) our most vulnerable populations accessing for social supports and services.” The motion will be debated at the June 8 Meeting. 

    A June 3 announcement by MPP Bill Walker applauded his government’s $150 million investment in improving broadband availability in unserved and underserved areas.

    A recent story in the Owen Sound Sun Times states that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is seeking special funding to upgrade the road and hydro connections to Cabot Head lightstation. Ron Wheeler is chair of the Friends of Cabot Head lightstation (FOCH). He says the Friends have heard nothing about these plans although “Obviously [DFO/Coast Guard] continue to need access because they still have the automated light out there.”

    MNBP Mayor Milt McIver says that “the municipality has been in conversation with staff at DFO about sending an engineer to look at the washed-out access road and the overgrown hydro corridor, but that DFO engineers will not yet visit the site due to COVID 19 restrictions.”

    The Sun Times story states that Cabot Head Road “may be traversed only on foot or bicycle” but neglects to mention that the road is still posted as closed to all traffic.