St. Stephen – They kept it open as long as they could, but now the Ganong Nature Park in St. Stephen is closed until further notice. Tami Matheson, Chairperson of the Ganong Nature Park/St. Croix Estuary Project Board, said they would have liked to remain open, but they just don’t have the staff to monitor social distancing. Signs have been posted at the entrance to let people know that they are no longer able to visit the park at this time.
“We held out for as long as we could,” said Matheson. “It’s sad. I think everybody should be able to do that (visit the park), but legally, we can’t keep it open. I think if we had someone to monitor social distancing, we could have stayed open longer. We don’t have enough staff for that. As soon as they loosen up some of the restrictions on traveling is when we’ll probably open back up.”
Matheson said if it weren’t for the fact that social distancing must be maintained, they could have kept the park open. But, landowners are liable if there are gatherings, and the board was worried that people would gather at the park. Not only would they receive individual fines, the park would also be fined, and they just can’t afford to let that happen.
“If we left it open and a group of people went in and played softball or something if there are any fines we would get a fine as well. We don’t need to be getting fines for allowing people to use the park, which is sad. That was my understanding. As soon as we have no issues with liability we’ll probably open the park again,” said Matheson.
So, what will happen if the restrictions go on for several months? What would that mean for park activities and events? Matheson said there is currently nothing scheduled for this summer, with the exception of the RCMP Musical Ride in August, and they aren’t even sure if that is still going to take place, given the current situation with COVID-19. They already had to cancel the lumberjack competition, and at this point in time, they are unsure what will take place for the annual Fall Fair.
“The musical ride, they haven’t cancelled on us yet. The RCMP are the ones who are going to call the shots on that one. I see they have delayed some of them, and haven’t made any decisions yet. When they make a decision, we’ll know if we’ll be able to go forward or not. There may be some way to do that and still have social distancing. We’re hopeful.”
Matheson said many of the programs that would normally be offered at the park are related to grants and sponsorships, which is not happening right now. Government budgets are being given over to support for those who are suffering financially due to COVID-19, and it is not easy to get local sponsorship when businesses are doing their best just to stay afloat in these uncertain times.
There is still talk of a fall fair being held in September. Matheson said even though that is still a few months away, it is difficult for them to make any decisions on what will be taking place, if anything. She said it definitely won’t be the same as it has been in past years, with people being able to interact with one another. Also, there is the issue of finance, and again, it is hard to get sponsorship when local business owners are unable to afford to sponsor anything right now.
“We ask the community for sponsorships, and how can you ask for sponsorships when they’re holding on by the skin of their teeth for their businesses?”
The Ganong Nature Park will be closed until further notice. Matheson said it is sad that it has to be this way but it is what needs to be done to protect the park from liability and to protect people from COVID-19. As soon as restrictions are lifted, they hope to be able to re-open the park to the public.