Swimmers headed to Bay Beach to cool off this summer will be required to pay an admission fee to gain access to the beach.
The charge for both residents and non-residents will cost $5 per visit. Children ages 10 and under will be admitted for free when accompanied by an adult. There will also be an option for residents to buy a season pass for $10, which can be purchased at Town Hall.
Kelly Walsh, the Town’s director of infrastructure services, said staff will gather data on the number of beach admissions and conduct surveys over the course of the summer. Following the end of the season, the council will have a chance to re-evaluate charging an admission fee at Bay Beach. Town staff will take the information gathered and will provide the council with a report in the Fall that outlines the amount of money generated in admission fees as well as any opportunities for improvement.
At a Town Hall meeting on Monday, Fort Erie’s councillors approved the recommendation from staff to charge an admission fee for beach users.
They were asked to consider several different options that included everyone pays a fee, free access for children and youths 15 and under when accompanied by an adult, a fee for non-residents only, or a hybrid option with free access Mondays through Thursdays, with all patrons paying admission on Fridays through Sundays and on holidays.
Mayor Wayne Redekop asked Town staff to amend option one, which calls for everyone to pay, to include the season’s pass for families, and free admission for children 10 and under.
“This is the least complicated and most effective way to deal with it,” he said.
Members of the council approved Redekop’ s amendment but several councillors expressed their concerns about charging an admission fee at all.
Ward 2 Coun. Nick Dubanow said he struggled with charging a fee because he believes “access to the beach shouldn’t be a cost to anyone.”
But he said after speaking with constituents about the costs of operating the beach, he would support the staff recommendation, and that the fee should be re-examined after the first year.
Ward 5 Coun. Don Lubberts noted that 20 residents addressed council during a public meeting held on March 4 regarding Bay Beach. He said many of the people that spoke to council said beach access should remain free for Fort Erie residents.
“Whatever we do tonight should be for just this year,” he said.
Members of the council asked how the season pass for residents would work. Walsh said it would be very similar to a credit card, with no photo. He said staff considered the fact some residents could share the season pass but having a more complicated pass with photo ID would require making a larger financial commitment to purchase the equipment to create them.
He said staff weighed the pros and cons and “the cost of making photo IDs was not worth it.”
Members of the council also approved keeping the Ashwood Road allowance open as a second entrance and exit for beach users. The Town will also hire a contract security firm to ensure the order is kept on the beach and staff will implement paid on-street parking. Crystal Beach residents without space for driveways will be given up to two parking passes.
Beach fees will be enforced between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Monday to Thursday and between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Friday to Sunday and on statutory holidays from the Victoria Day long weekend through the Labour Day weekend.