NATION VALLEY — South Nation Conservation (SNC) warns that its remaining open trails are at risk of closure if residents don’t observe COVID-19 etiquette on Easter weekend.
The provincial emergency order otherwise closing most recreational amenities does not apply to green spaces like parks, trails and conservation areas — including several maintained for “passive recreational use” by the local watershed authority.
But SNC says it will be “forced to close the remainder of its trails” if users fail to respect physical distancing requirements or “meet in groups in parks, increase parking lot and trail interactions with others, access or vandalize closed facilities, or are walking dogs off leash.” Visitation “is monitored and operations will be adjusted accordingly,” it says.
However, in the same carefully worded message issued yesterday, the organization also acknowledges that “getting outside and going for walks can help promote positive mental and physical health and can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression; stepping outside and staying active and safe is more important now, than ever.”
And it advises the public that the following walk-through sites remain open:
• Two Creek Forest Conservation Area (Morrisburg)
• Oschmann Forest Conservation Area (Ormond)
• Robert Graham Conservation Area (Glen Stewart)
• Warwick Forest Conservation Area (Berwick)
• J. Henry Tweed Conservation Area (Russell)
• W. E. Burton Conservation Area (Russell)
• Reveler Conservation Area (Crysler)
• Nokomis Park (Limoges)
All other conservation areas not listed (including the Findlay Creek Conservation Area, access to the Leitrim Wetland in Ottawa, and the Alfred Bog Boardwalk) are closed, says SNC. (See the full list at www.nation.on.ca/coronavirus.) Likewise, all of SNC’s outdoor washrooms, play structures, seating areas, gazebos and boardwalks are closed as well, and group reservations in parks have been cancelled.
Noting that it is “committed to supporting municipalities, partners and people as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds,” SNC also repeats the standard advice that people “should stay home except for essential reasons and should limit the number of these essential trips.”
SNC says it plans to maintain open conservation areas for passive trail users with noted precautions, signage and messaging. “Future updates will be provided concerning river access for boats and fishing,” it adds.
The local watershed authority owns and maintains many public recreational sites and conservation areas through agreements with 16 member municipalities in its 4,441-square-kilometre jurisdiction. It manages over 20,000 acres of Community Forest in Eastern Ontario, and many public, day-use conservation areas have been donated to SNC through its Land Securement Program.