Public boat launches may reopen soon

CORNWALL – The fishing season may now be open, but anglers are unable to launch their boats in the region due to closures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. However that soon may be changing as the province eases physical distancing measures.

Local anglers in South Dundas have expressed their frustration with the closure and inability to launch their boats at the public launches in Iroquois and Morrisburg.

South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds said that while some municipalities have opened their boat launches, South Dundas will not yet. “It is the opinion of South Dundas, in consultation with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, that boat launches are considered to be an outdoor recreational amenity. Therefore, the Municipality has decided it is our legal obligation to keep our boat launches closed as part of the Provincial Emergency Order.”

Under the Provincial Emergency Order, public boat launch areas are not specifically listed as a park amenity.

Personal boat launches on private property are allowed to be used for launching watercraft.

The Ontario government did not delay the start of the fishing season on May 1st.

While public boat launches in Cornwall and SDG remain closed, municipalities in Leeds-Grenville have begun to open launches. Rideau Lakes Township and Leeds and Thousand Islands Township opened their public boat launch areas on May 2nd.

EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said that he expected boat launches to be among the first public spaces to open.

“The directive we have, and we spoke to our lawyers on this, if you want to launch from a public launch you can’t, but from a launch in your back yard, you’re allowed. I know, it sounds bizarre,” Roumeliotis said. “I can tell you that it won’t be long that it’s going to change. I am certain that it’s going to be one of the first things that are going to be allowed.” He said he believed that the May 1st announcement of golf courses and marinas being allowed to begin preparations for the summer season will mean the boat launches will open soon.

“I brought this up to the ministry many times,” Roumeliotis said.

During his May 12th media update, when asked for an update on the status of reopening boat launches, he said “stay tuned.”

Byvelds said that the South Dundas boat launches will reopen “only when our Health Officials determine it is the right time. Until then, we thank you for your patience and assistance in these efforts.”

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