Chestermere, Alta. asks province for more help in controlling beach crowds
CHESTERMERE, ALTA. -- When the sun is out, so are the crowds in Chestermere’s lakeside parks, and that is worrying for the city.
"We've been doing everything we can locally, signage and patrols to encourage people to abide by provincial rules, but that’s just not happening," said Mayor Marshall Chalmers.
Chalmers met with Alberta Health and other government officials Wednesday, asking for better direction on acceptable crowd sizes and jurisdiction in enforcing spacing and limiting crowding.
With warmer temperatures and sunny weather Thursday, Anniversary Park was crowded with a few hundred people. While many appeared to try to keep distance, the sheer numbers made effective distancing impossible.
CTV News saw just two people wearing masks.
"I think it’s too many people, too close to each other. This is why I’m staying really far away from them," says Isabel Lara, who sat about 50 m away from the throng of beach goers.
"I don’t want to go that close. I don’t think it’s safe."
The city of Chestermere’s website says the provincial guidelines limit beach crowds to 100 people, but the province’s COVID-19 page does not specify beaches.
Alberta's chief medical officer of health said Thursday that's expected to change in the coming days.
"We have met this week with Alberta Beach, with Chestermere and with Sylvan Lake who have all expressed concerns over significant crowds on beaches over the last week or two," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw. "I want to say I sympathize with Albertans who want to spend our limited, lovely summer days at a beach but what we hear very clearly from all of those towns is that they need additional guidance."
Hinshaw said the province is preparing a document that will give more specific details about what's expected from beach-goers.
"We talked about strategies and helping people plan in advance and come up with back-up plans. If they pack up the car, go to the beach and the beach is already crowded, what are the options that families can think about."
Hinshaw says the province will be working together with municipalities on this and any other situation that may arise.
Earlier this week, Alberta Environment and Parks tweeted encouraging would-be beachgoers to move on to another location when they encounter crowds.