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Home New Release New fees, changes to rules causing waves at Manitoba beach

New fees, changes to rules causing waves at Manitoba beach

Changes at a Manitoba beach have lead to a wave of concerns for some in the community.

Last month, the RM of St. Laurent passed a bylaw that put new rules in place for Big Tree Park, a municipality-owned park that includes Sandpiper Beach along the southeastern shore of Lake Manitoba.

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Under the changes entry to the beach is no longer free for non-residents, access points that used to be open to the public have been closed off, and new hours of operation mean the park is off-limits before 11 a.m. and a half-hour after the sun sets.

The new rules, which went into effect Canada Day, came as a surprise to some living near the beach.

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Manitobans staying close to home this summer

Manitobans staying close to home this summer

“None of the community knew it was coming,” said Rae Lynn Walker, who has lived in St. Laurent, just a short walk from the beach, for more than a decade.

“Who wants to stay here if you can’t go to the beach? That’s the whole reason why we bought the cabin.”

With the changes, anyone who can’t provide proof of residence in the RM will be charged $10 a day per vehicle including the driver, and $5 for additional passengers.

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Year-round passes are also available for $100 which include entry for two adults and three youth, and entry is free for kids six and under.

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Walker says she’s already noticed fewer people using the beach.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We just got families together (and) we can’t even go to the beach,” she said.

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“I’m certainly not going pay for my friends to come and visit me at the beach, but I’d love to see them.”

A request for comment from St. Laurent Reeve Cheryl Smith wasn’t returned, but a statement posted to the municipality’s website says the changes were made to help pay for improvements at the park.

“Our beaches are now considered a tourism and recreation destination; they are being promoted and advertised as such and visitors and tourists from all over the country as well as some international travelers are coming here to access our beaches,” the statement reads in part.

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“Due to the influx and large increase of visitors and tourists, costs of maintaining, enhancing, repairing, and monitoring the use of our infrastructure have increased exponentially. These costs should not be borne by our residents and property owners, hence the implementation of a fee charged to visitors.”

But Walker says it’s not just the new fees that have irked locals.

She says signs have been put up blocking access points to the beach, meaning those who live nearby now have to go to a main entrance gate to get in.

Access points to the beach have been blocked.

Access points to the beach have been blocked.

Submitted/Rae Lynn Walker

That means what would have been a quick stroll to the beach from her front door is now a 10 minute drive.

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“This was fine two weeks ago, we were able to walk our dogs, swim with our dogs, do everything,” she said.

The municipality’s statement calls the changes a pilot project, and invites those in the community with questions to call the RM office.

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Walker said she’d rather have seen the RM charge for parking to pay for improvements, and thinks the community should have been given more time to weigh in.

“You’re putting it up before anybody can voice a concern,” she said.

“It should have been a meeting. Hey, let’s get some ideas, how can we improve our beach?”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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