Sauble Beach will have a 'pedestrian mall' area this Civic Holiday long weekend.
Mayor Janice Jackson says Main Street from the beach to 2nd Avenue will be closed to vehicles and opened up to pedestrians. It will also be closed on that small portion of Lakeshore Boulevard up to the Ascent Aerial Park.
Jackson says the beach town could get 80,000 to 90,000 people this weekend and this closure will allow people more room to walk around.
Council has been talking about the idea of a pedestrian area and had been thinking of trying it out this summer.
Jackson says now is a good time to try it, as it will give people more room to spread out, instead of sticking to sidewalks, "We're most concerned about the masses of people that are congregating typically in the downtown core. The safety of the community is always paramount for us and Council decided that this the time, especially in this COVID-19 era when people are desperate to get out of the city and get up to a beach like ours, so we do expect record numbers and we just want to really provide the safest possible situation for our visitors and our residents and all of our employees that are working in that downtown core as well."
She says, "By closing it off and creating a pedestrian mall is going to create the perfect solution. I think it's going to benefit our business community as well because instead of cars driving by, they're going to have thousands of people right in front of their entrances, so I think it's going to be beneficial for many people."
Jackson says the Town has been distributing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) startup kits for businesses. Sauble's downtown received some just around the same time the mask order went into effect in mid-July. Jackson says the kits have three litres of hand sanitizer and 20 masks per business, "Just to get them started." She adds, this coming week they'll be working on Wiarton, Hepworth and other areas.
Jackson says the Main Street closure is currently just for the weekend to see how it goes, "It will certainly give us an idea of whether this idea is going to work on a permanent basis and if it does, then we would like to do it for the entire summer next year. at that time we most definitely would be stringing lights across the road and putting benches and trees and all kinds of things too make that area look really user friendly. So we're very excited about it and anxious to see how well it works."
Jackson notes the vendors market in the new town square park is open Mondays and Thursdays this summer as well. "They were so successful last year on Thursdays that they've added a second day, and then on Wednesday they're down in Bluewater Park in Wiarton."
Jackson says the town is starting to have a relatively normal summer despite the pandemic, "Since we closed the beach and sent a very strong message that, 'You have to behave and don't abuse our beach,' I think people have done a fantastic job following all the rules and being very respectful."