Chestermere City Council directed the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to issue an order to implement measures to address public safety and health, and imminent and foreseeable dangers related to COVID-19 and overcrowding at public beaches at a July 18 Special Meeting of Council.
Effective July 19 until Sept. 7, public beaches and recreational areas adjacent to water will be fenced and have an occupancy limit.
“There is a serious issue and concern on our beaches. As we all know, this overcrowding is not only by our own residents, our beaches are very much enjoyed by and frequented by non-Chestermere residents, which further complicates the challenge,” said CAO Bernie Morton.
“We have been busy for the past few weeks responding to injuries from members of the public about what kinds of things we can do to address the situation of overcrowding,” he said.
The City of Chestermere has had numerous discussions with Alberta beach communities about their challenges, and solutions to overcrowding.
“While there’s no one size fits all solution to these challenges, we have had the opportunity to discuss these challenges with the province of Alberta,” Morton said.
Resulting from discussions with communities, a guidance document for beach communities was released.
“This order would be in response to a council resolution and speaks to the fact that the virus is still with us, there is no vaccine, we have seen an increase in cases in Chestermere and the province, and outbreaks in Calgary,” Morton said.
“In order to protect our residents and our beachgoers, really what we need is to limit the capacity at the beaches,” he said.
The order supports a limited capacity of individuals at local beaches, which supports the provincial health orders of maintaining a physical distance of two metres.
“What we will be doing is once we have these occupancy limits on the beaches, we will have them fenced in, one entrance, multiple exits, and it would be a first come first serve, once we reach the maximum capacity no further entrance would be permitted until people leave. We would also have to monitor people coming and going,” Morton said.
“This is the safest way, unfortunately, the measures that we’ve taken to date have not been proven to be as effective as we need it to be to keep people safe,” he said.
Adding, “the crowding is not constant every day, people are enjoying the amenity that we have and under normal times, we would welcome people coming to our community and using the beach. However, at this particular time, with COVID-19 at the top of everyone’s mind, we have to take the measures to protect the community.”
City Councillors and Mayor Marshall Chalmers have received numerous calls and emails regarding Chestermere residents’ concerns about overcrowding at the beaches.
“It’s been apparent visually, to me, that we need to take action,” Chalmers said.
“We looked at our options, and this is the best one given the information we have. I’m not happy that there are some costs attached to this protection of the public, but we need to do something quickly, and this is a good start,” said City Councillor Yvette Kind.
She added, “Other than closing our beach, which is what we’re trying to avoid doing, this is the best option given today.”