Controlling beach is ‘difficult,’ says Sylvan Lake

The Town of Sylvan Lake is looking to the province for direction on how it should handle large crowds such as those that flocked to the community’s waterfront last weekend.

The spectacle of the packed beach caused a stir on social media.

“Sylvan Lake today – my anxiety was a tad high today. Don’t think we’ll be going back. I felt like a Covidiot today,” tweeted papercandie.

“This is so dangerous,” tweeted NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “You’re putting your life at risk. Please, Albertans, let’s work together to get rid of COVID-19.”

The town’s chief administrative officer, Wally Ferris, said only the RCMP and Alberta Health are able to enforce how visitors comply with the social distancing mandate.

“Controlling social behaviour is tremendously difficult. We neither have the jurisdiction, nor the resources, to manage and enforce behaviour… but we want to be clear: from what we observed on the weekend – the sheer number of people, enforcement alone is not the solution,” Ferris said as part of a statement issued by the town Monday.

The town says large crowds during summer are “commonplace” and it expects the number of visitors on the lakefront was close, or at, capacity.

“While the town is disappointed with those who did not follow best health and safety practices on the weekend, we are aware of, and observed first hand, many that were enjoying the waterfront responsibly, so thank you,” the town is in its statement.

Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre responded to a comment on his Facebook page that said the town should do a better job of controlling the number of people at the lake.

McIntyre’s response said the town does not have the authority to keep people off the beach.

“The province also increased the size of groups to up to 200. It is difficult to tell where one group begins and the other group ends,” McIntyre said on Facebook.

McIntyre, who was at the beach Saturday, said the area may have looked jam-packed, but there were actually gaps in between families and other groups.

Said the town in its statement: “The public has been told they can form family cohorts of up to 15, to staycation within the province, and to support their local economies. With this, larger crowds at destinations like Sylvan Lake are bound to happen, and we’re committed to working together to identify possible solutions to make our public spaces safer.”

– With files from Megan Roth, Black Press Media

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