Popular Halton parks opening next week


If you've been missing some of the Halton Region's most popular parks (think Crawford Lake and Rattlesnake Point), you are in luck—the outdoor destinations are reopening (with some caveats) very soon. 

On May 15, Conservation Halton announced that five of its seven parks-- Crawford Lake, Hilton Falls, Rattlesnake Point, Mount Nemo and Kelso Summit--will be open to members and the public for hiking and biking on May 22 by pre-reserved visits only. 

Robert Edmondson, Mountsberg and the rest of Kelso will be opened in the coming weeks.

Most, if not all, of the trails, will be available, but facilities such as washrooms, outhouses and visitor centres, will remain closed. 

According to Conservation Halton, there will be reduced staffing at the parks, which means that programs and services, such as camping, boat rentals and the challenge course, are still on hold. Park entrance fees will be reduced for this reason. 

To visit the parks, members and other visitors will now be required to make a reservation, either online or over the phone, for a two-hour visit during operating hours (9 am-9 pm). Park staff will ensure visitors can practice physical distancing. 

Reservations will be open on Wednesday or Thursday.  

Conservation Halton says it will be able to safely accommodate about 75,000 visitors across the parks per week. At present, there are about 15,000 timeslots available per week, but capacity is expected to increase in the coming weeks.

Conservation Halton says visitors should prepare for this to become a "new normal," adding that the reservation system will even allow visitors to know which parks, days and times are most and least busy before they leave the house. This "new normal" will include a few other changes, such as automated gates and contactless payment. 

"When we closed the parks, it didn't suddenly become convenient for us to make these improvements, but it was suddenly necessary," says Hassaan Basit, CAO, Conservation Halton, in a statement. 

"Instead of opening the gates, putting up some signs and walking away, which would have been irresponsible, we wanted to take a little more time to make these improvements, so that when we did open the parks, we would have a better chance to create the conditions needed for physical distancing and be able to operate more efficiently than before."

In order to develop, test and improve the new system for accessing the parks, Conservation Halton has been conducting a pilot program with members at Crawford Lake over the last couple of weeks. 

The findings from this pilot were used to determine reservation times, reduce arrival traffic, validate safe capacity in the parks and ensure physical distancing on the trails.

Cover photo courtesy of Conservation Halton 

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