Outdoor recreational pursuits in The Blue Mountains are limited these days due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Combined with mid-winter cabin fever and newly minted resolutions, many residents and visitors are flocking to local trails to experience the few remaining options for winter recreation: hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, among the most popular. While there are seemingly limitless trails to explore throughout the region, the opposite is true for parking. The resurgence in trail activity has resulted in an uptick of roadside parking, which puts all trail users at risk in the event of an emergency.
While it’s reasonable to hike along most trails and keep your distance from trail users not in your household, the same cannot be said for rural roads and access points to these areas. One such hotspot is 6th sideroad, a popular access point to Pretty River Valley Provincial Park, says Shawn Carey, Director of Operations at The Town of The Blue Mountains. “Vehicles are often parked on both sides of the road, obstructing snowplows and creating a hazard. When plows are unable to clear snow and ice in these areas, it’s difficult, if not impossible, for emergency vehicles to access these rural roads in the event of an emergency.”
The Town of the Blue Mountains has posted signage in some, but not all, rural areas, notifying users of this hazard. Where signage isn’t posted, parking by-laws still apply. Motorists must keep in mind that if their vehicle is creating a hazardous condition, they are in violation of By-Law 2003-11 and can be ticketed. By-law officers are making efforts to educate trail users regarding parking By-Laws and where necessary, are enforcing by ticketing or towing.
Best practices to abide by if you’re planning a recreational outing this winter are to avoid parking along the road altogether, carpool with your household where possible and park only in designated areas. Carey advises that “if the area you’re planning to explore is full, please find an alternate trailhead to start your expedition, where safe and responsible parking is available” adding, “Generally, arriving early in the day allows you to secure a safe parking spot.”
The Town of The Blue Mountains is currently working with stakeholder groups - namely the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, Grey County, Ontario Parks and local trail associations - to evaluate the increased demand for trail access and collaborate on sustainable solutions, including expanded parking areas this spring.
Meanwhile, to help alleviate the issue and meet the demand for outdoor winter trail recreation during the 2021 winter season, the municipality has undertaken trail grooming for the first time ever, on parts of the Georgian Trail. Municipal staff have also initiated track-setting for cross-country skiing, at Tomahawk Golf Course. Dedicated parking areas for both locations are available.
Preparedness for an outing on the trails in The Town of The Blue Mountains extends beyond your wardrobe, route mapping and the weather forecast. The next time you’re planning a hike, snowshoe, bike or cross-country ski excursion, be sure to add parking to your preparations. For information about where to hike - and park safely - in The Blue Mountains, look at the Town or Grey County online interactive maps.