Prince Edward County locals frustrated as tourists flock to popular provincial park
PICTON, ONT. -- One of eastern Ontario’s most popular tourist attractions is overwhelmed by a surge of demand.
During the summer months, Sandbanks Provincial Parks is the serenity tourists seek out. Lately, however, the norm is causing more frustration than relaxation, and officials are being forced to turn guests away on weekends.
Madison Smith has worked at a local vegetable and fruit stand that sits outside the entrance to the park for four years.
“People get really frustrated in their cars, so they’ll be honking at each other, getting angry with each other,” she says. “It gets crazy.”
It’s so busy, people living in the area can’t even get in, says local Kelly Taylor.
“It’s unfortunate because we can’t take our kids to local stuff because other people are ushering down here because they can’t do it in their area,” he says. “To me, I say smarten up and get your stuff together.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the park closed to day-pass users mere hours after opening.
Residents are increasingly saying overcrowding is affecting their ability to enjoy their small town.
“Mostly on the weekend we can’t get to the beach because there’s so many tourists so we’re kind of stuck,” says Smith. “So that can really suck.”
The mayor of Prince Edward County, Steve Ferguson, says he’s been in communication with the province over the park’s popularity.
He says he has asked the province to help limit the impact before visitors even arrive through social media, and other means.
“Specifically, through highway signs on the 401 eastbound and westbound,” he explains, “that will advise the parks status, so that people don’t drive into the county if there’s no point in doing it because the park has been closed.”
He says local officials are also working to enforce rules.
“Our staff are working hard to enforce our bylaws, make sure that people are parking appropriately and that people are directed to other locations other than over crowded amenities.”
The mayor says, if you’re thinking about coming to the county over the long weekend, plan ahead by checking social media for status updates. He’s also asking for residents and visitors alike to exercise patience.
Sandbanks Provincial Park closed day entrance 10 times so far this summer
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Connor Oke of Ontario Parks says there has been a lot of interest in Sandbanks Provincial Park this year.
"We are seeing an increase in reservations and day-use overall this year at many of our provincial parks."
Staff have closed the day entrance to new visitors at 11 a.m. approximately 10 times this year.
There are 2,200 parking spots available, but people often arrive by busses, bikes.
Oke says there is no specific limit on people allowed in the park at one time, but "when a determination has been made that the park has reached capacity, Sandbanks Provincial Park staff will stop permitting new visitors to enter the park for several hours."
Ontario Parks recommends that if you want to visit on a summer weekend, arrive before 10 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. The worst time to arrive is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.