September 28, 2020

BY STEPH SMITH

Adventurous activities were abundant in Kitchener-Waterloo, until the onslaught of heavy winds and even heavier snow.

With multiple storms causing branches to snap and trees to fall, the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) is still working on park cleanup.

“It’s not really possible to put a dollar value on the damages since most of the damage was to trees, which are not insurable,” said Dave Schultz, manager of communications for the GRCA, in an email. “There was little damage to any of our buildings. Some of the people who have private cottages on land they rent from us might have had damages, but they would deal with that on their own.”

According to their website, the GRCA reports that the thousands of trees that the December ice storm damaged on the 20,000 hectares of land that they own caused popular areas to become off limits until further notice.

“We have several dozen GRCA employees and three or four contractors at work on our properties. They’ve been working steadily since after the ice storm,” Schultz said.

He added the GRCA doesn’t have any hard numbers yet for the cost of cleanup, but estimates the cost of hiring contractors could reach $200,000, and the cost of repairing power lines throughout the parks could be close to $75,000. These figures do not include the cost of their own staff.

Three paid admission parks, Laurel Creek (Waterloo), Shade’s Mills (Cambridge) and Belwood Lake (Fergus), as well as the nature centres at Shade’s Mills and Laurel Creek, Apps Mill (Brantford) and Guelph Lake (Guelph) remain open. Ice fishing is still available at Shade’s Mills and Belwood Lake as well.

However, all other parks, natural areas and trails are closed for the time being. Red and white trespassing signs have been erected to warn people to stay out because of the potential dangers.

“Our parks staff are provincial offences officers so they can write tickets for trespassing,” Schultz said. “Fines would be similar to a traffic ticket.”

He said they have yet to write any tickets and hope to keep it that way.

People are welcome at the open parks where they can either bring their own skiing and snowshoeing equipment or rent some from the GRCA, and regular entrance fees will still apply.

The GRCA strongly discourages people from going onto their other properties because of the danger associated with hanging and fallen trees and branches.

“We are working to get all 11 paid admission parks ready for the summer season by the normal opening date of May 1,” Shultz said. “As for our admission-free natural areas and trails, we don’t have dates yet for when we will remove the no trespassing signs.”

For more information and weekly updates on the status of parks, trails, nature centres and other GRCA properties, visit www.grandriver.ca/Newsroom/News.cfm?id=754

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