Alberta lake communities clamp down on beach crowds amid COVID-19

As the sun shines down on Sylvan Lake, large crowds have flocked to the central Alberta town’s waterfront to soak up the summer rays.

However, overcrowding and a lack of physical distancing have prompted officials to ramp up enforcement in the area amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Facebook post Thursday, the town’s mayor noted that, in order to keep everyone safe, the waterfront will see several changes this weekend, including an increased presence of RCMP officers.

“The Town recognizes that everyone is trying to find balance — to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while trying to seek a bit of ‘normal’ again,” Sean McIntyre wrote.

“However, all of us must be more vigilant about respecting health and safety rules regardless of the circumstances.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Sylvan Lake officials to meet with province after weekend of crowded beaches

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For the weekend of July 18-19, the town will see increased signage that highlights public health orders and enforcement of physical distancing regulations.

A shot of Sylvan Lake, Alta., taken on Saturday, July 11, 2020.
A shot of Sylvan Lake, Alta., taken on Saturday, July 11, 2020. Twitter / @papercandie

Public parking lots on the waterfront will be closed until 6 p.m. once full. Electronic signage when entering the town which will indicate if and when the volume of people within the waterfront becomes a concern.

“Please consider visiting our community another time or day if when upon arrival, the waterfront appears too busy to safely enjoy your time with us.”

“These measures have been developed after conversations with Alberta Health, Alberta Environment and Parks, the Solicitor General, RCMP, our Town of Sylvan Lake staff and more,” McIntyre added.

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Hinshaw reminds Albertans of the importance of physical distancing

Hinshaw reminds Albertans of the importance of physical distancing

However, Sylvan Lake isn’t the only Alberta community seeing large crowds amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Chestermere is also home to three lakefront beaches and on Thursday, the city’s mayor expressed his concern for the area’s growing number of visitors.

“We are a beautiful lake community,” Marshall Chalmers said in an interview with Global News Radio 770 CHQR. “But these beaches are public and we are very concerned with what we’re seeing with the overcrowding.

“The provincial orders on the two-metre distancing is simply not happening. It really is an area that we’re concerned could be an outbreak.”

Despite patrols and signage asking the public to maintain physical distancing, Chalmers said the city is still seeing overcrowding on the lakefronts and he’s concerned that could lead to uptick in cases.

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“We were doing awful good,” he said. “Our community responded really well into the lockdown, we were down to one case. Now things are bumping up again.”

Now, he’s asking the province to get involved.

“We’re trying to get ahead of it and we’re trying to work with the province,” he said. “We just don’t have the option to close or limit the occupancy on the beaches right now.

“This is a health concern and consequently, we need provincial assistance, guidance and orders to effect those rules on the beach,” he added.

“We’re asking the province to set out some clear occupancy guidelines for the beaches and we’re more than willing, as a municipality, to work with them to ensure that physical distancing is taking place.”

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Chalmers noted the city is working with Alberta Health Services and the province on a plan for future beach use.

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