Six Overcrowded Weekends Left to Endure

By John Francis

Governments, businesses and people in general around the world are experiencing deer-in-the-headlights moments trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Northern Bruce Peninsula is no exception.

It’s not just the virus we have to deal with — it’s the demographic patterns the virus creates. Canada’s Wonderland is closed. The Toronto Zoo and Marineland are gradually opening. The SkyDome/Rogers Centre is closed. Bars in Toronto are closed (except patios). Niagara Falls had no casinos or boat tours.

That left hundreds of thousands of people looking for something to do every weekend. (If that number seems extreme, bear in mind that the Greater Toronto Area is home to more than six million people. Consider that the SkyDome seats around 50,000 and Canada’s Wonderland had 3.79 million visitors in 2018.)

All of those people pretty much have to leave Toronto to get to anything that’s open, because Toronto is still closed. And they absolutely have to go somewhere because the apartment walls are starting to close in. So where are all those people going to go?

A significant number of them seem to be coming to the Bruce Peninsula. 

Many of them come in a particular hurry and become fodder for the peninsula’s burgeoning car-impound industry. But I digress.

A lot of them arrive here at the end of the road without the foggiest idea as to why they came. They got out of Dodge, but they look around and wonder why they bothered. Nothing here but rocks and trees. No roller coasters. No funnel cakes. Not even a food court. And no public washrooms!

Huge numbers of people come to the peninsula, drawn by other people’s images of the perfect Saturday afternoon.

The Bruce Peninsula is victim of the Instagram selfie.

Reliable estimates say there have been more than 200 cars parked along Moore Street in Lion’s Head and almost 300 parked along Little Cove Road near Tobermory.

That’s too many. But what should we do about it?

MNBP Council’s July 27 Agenda contains several letters and a petition from local residents, asking MNBP Council to ban parking on both sides of Moore Street. Other stakeholders have suggested that paid parking be implemented on Moore St and revenues from that be used to fund a Bylaw Enforcement presence to prevent parking on both sides of the road.

I wondered what it’s like in Lion’s Head Provincial Park on a busy Saturday. While taking photos of the heavy traffic on Moore St on July 25, I ran into Alex Hepburn of Lion’s Head. He was heading for the trail, taking friends out to see McKay’s Harbour. I called him to find out how his walk unfolded. “To be honest,” he told me, “it wasn’t that bad”. Things weren’t all that crowded. Most people were going to the first lookout then “taking selfies and going back out”. Past the lookout, Hepburn encountered a few people, with maybe 20 at McKay’s Harbour. Coming back by the inland loop, he encountered only two groups in two hours of hiking. Everybody was very respectful of each other’s space, he told me; he sounded surprised at this. He only saw four pieces of garbage all afternoon.

His conclusions: the people aren’t the problem. He’d like to see more garbage containers — if Provincial Parks won’t put them out, then MNBP should do it. He’d also like to see more signage about poison ivy.

MNBP Council’s July 27 Agenda includes a Staff Report about widening Little Cove Road and Cemetery Road to accommodate parking. (Cemetery Road is an alternative access point for Lion’s Head Provincial Park.)

What do we know for sure? There are six weekends left in this season, ending with Labour Day Weekend. By next year, Wonderland, Marineland. SkyDome and the pubs may all be open, rendering our problems moot.

Let’s get through the next six weekends.