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Councillors in Port Hope will soon decide between a partial or complete closure of a popular fishing area for the annual fall salmon migration as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
During a July 21 special council meeting, council reviewed a staff report proposing two options for managing the seasonal influx of visitors that coincides with the migration of salmon up the Ganaraska River.
Both options have been shared publicly to allow residents to have their say. The commenting period closes Aug. 21 at 4 p.m.
In the first option, the municipality would support the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority by closing the fish ladder — a popular gathering spot for fish watching — and the ramp on the west side of the river accessed from Walton Street. It would also initiate a public awareness campaign related to precautions for COVID-19 as identified in the staff report.
In the second option, the municipality would close access to all municipal properties along the river, including trails, from Molson to Robertson streets from Sept. 1 to Oct. 15. The proposal addresses residents’ concerns about COVID-19 and large gatherings of people (particularly at the fish ladder) visiting from other communities.
A full closure would save the city an estimated $3,500 in portable toilets and garbage collection, while the river and its migratory fish would benefit from added protection, staff wrote. The report also identifies potential cons, including reduced tourism and a negative impact to local economy, potential for trespassing on private property, and negative reaction from the community and anglers.
Economically, restaurants in Port Hope typically rely on out-of-town visitors for 25 to 35% of their business, and that weekend foot traffic along Walton street increases by 25% on most weekends.
The pandemic already prompted the municipality and conservation authority to close all public lands bordering the river for the spring trout fishing season, which normally attracts hundreds of anglers to the area.
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