Fort Erie gets on board with paddle boards at Bay Beach

As summer kicks off, the Town of Fort Erie will be allowing more ways to enjoy Bay Beach.

At the June 10 council-in-committee meeting, councillors approved a pilot program that opens up Bay Beach to stand up paddle boarders and kayakers this summer. The trial does come with some restrictions, though.

Councillor Tom Lewis said he received several requests to allow stand up paddle boards, also known as SUPs, on Bay Beach. Previously they haven’t been allowed thanks to strict rules aimed at keeping swimmers safe.

“Our current policy within the roped area is that no watercrafts are allowed, period,” said Kelly Walsh, director of infrastructure services.

The Town’s definition of watercraft is loose, and could mean just about anything that floats, Walsh said.

“A piece of wood is a watercraft if you’re on it.”

While those definitions and restrictions are in place to ensure swimmer safety, Walsh said they’re open to relaxing those rules.

“We’re willing to go forward with it, with a few caveats,” he said.

Those caveats include restrictions during busy times, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on prime days, which are weekends and holidays mostly. And while kayaks and SUPs will be allowed, others, including canoes will continue to be restricted.

Access to the beach for kayakers and paddle boarders will also be restricted to the Ashwood entrance, Walsh said.

There was some concern about paddle boards taking up space on the beach, especially when the 11 a.m. time hits on prime days. Users will be able to lay them on the sand during the open paddle boarding and kayaking times. But Lewis said once the prime day times kick in then the intention is to have users return their devices to their cars or homes when they come in from the water.

The trial will last throughout the summer, starting as soon as the Town can get everything organized. That includes possible signage and details for a survey staff plans to conduct.

Staff plans to return to council in the fall with an operational report on how the trial went.

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