NPCA phases in opening of nature areas

npca wetland

Nature lovers can continue to enjoy the NPCA’s conservation areas throughout the Niagara watershed. NPCA photo.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) is preparing to re-open its parks to the public. Although the Niagara region will remain in phase one until this Friday, campgrounds and conservation areas were allowed to re-open earlier. After yesterday’s announcement by the government, locals can not only continue going on hikes and participate in passive recreation but will soon be able to experience more of what the NPCA properties have to offer. The NPCA operates a total 41 properties including some well known conservation areas like Balls Falls, Long Beach and Chippawa Creek.

In 2019 Chandra Sharma was appointed to the position of Chief Administrative Officer/Secretary-Treasurer for the NPCA. She said that while the COVID-19 pandemic has provided some challenges she and her team have also tried to be creative when finding solutions. “Whether it’s navigating through a pandemic or any other challenge, we see these challenges as an opportunity to innovate and get better,” said Sharma. The NPCA has made its parks safe and accessible for Niagara locals to enjoy for the summer season.

Currently, the NPCA is working on a phased approach to opening their parks. There will be phases to ensure that the parks can open up safely for the public. The first phase was to open recreational areas such as bird watching and hiking. The second phase is to open campgrounds; according to the NPCA the phased approach has been a success and has allowed for locals to enjoy the parks safely.

“The NPCA, much like other Niagara, Haldimand, and Hamilton based organizations and businesses, is excited to enter Phase Two of the Province’s reopening framework. We have been expecting this announcement and have been diligently preparing for it with all levels of the organization—board of directors, municipal partners, and staff.” This Friday will mark the complete reopening of conservation areas, with a large focus on two of the NPCA’s flagship properties, Ball’s Falls and Binbrook.  Two other main properties Chippawa Creek and Long Beach will open the following day. “This will mean permitted use of our beach areas, fishing, paddling and using non-motorized watercraft in our lakes, small wedding ceremonies, children day camps, and even the use of our children’s splash pad at Binbrook — all activities which our community is so eager to enjoy and have been patiently waiting for,” explained Sharma.

“Our staff have been trained with new protocols, rules and regulations, and are pleased to serve our conservation area visitors as we enter our new normal. As always, we ask that all visitors practice safe physical distance, do not gather in large groups, are kind to the environment they will be surrounded by and clean up after themselves, taking with them whatever they bring. We encourage everyone to follow our social media pages and npca.ca/parks for regular updates.”

The NPCA’s signature event is the annual thanksgiving festival located at the Ball’s Falls Conservation Area. It attracts thousands each year and is a significant revenue source for the organization. As the current COVID-19 situation continues to develop, it is difficult to predict what October will look like. Large gatherings of more than a hundred people may continue to be restricted to prevent the spread of the virus. However, without knowing what October will look like Sharma and other members of the NPCA are working to find ways to keep the Thanksgiving tradition alive. “The staff is getting creative, they’re thinking of many options at this time and working on these options,” said Sharma.

Children play structures remain closed, in addition to some washrooms at various conservation areas.  Transient camping is not available at Chippawa Creek or Long Beach Conservation Areas.

“Visitors to the park have been following the rules, they have been really respectful,” said Sharma.

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