TORONTO — A popular Ontario tourist destination that was completely overwhelmed with visitors last summer is imposing huge fines and will now charge out-of-towners to use the beach in order to avoid overcrowding.
Prince Edward County, located near Belleville, became a top destination for Ontarians looking for a getaway during the pandemic last summer.
But according to Todd Davis, the Director of Community Services, Programs and Initiatives for Prince Edward County, the region became so popular with tourists it became “more than they could handle.”
“Tourism has been growing in Prince Edward County over the last decade but COVID really brought a sharp point to it,” Davis told CTV News Toronto on Thursday.
Davis said people visiting the region last year caused massive gridlock in the county and that many people parked and camped illegally.
He said beaches were also often packed beyond capacity.
In preparation for another hectic summer, the county has approved a tourist management plan that increased fines for people who ignores the rules.
The county has increased no-parking fines from $35 to an eye-watering $400 in several tourist hot zones. This includes areas near Sandbanks Provincial Park and Mountain Provincial Park.
Davis said the previous $35 fine wasn’t enough to deter out-of-towners, who he said were often willing to accept the fine so they could find a parking spot.
“The whole goal for us was to raise it to a point where it would be high enough to be a deterrent for people to not park there,” Davis said.
Fines for illegal camping in municipal parks and beaches will also jump from $75 to a whopping $500.
As of this weekend, out-of-towners will also be hit with a $10 fee per person on weekends to access Wellington Beach.
It will remain free for locals.
There won’t be any advanced bookings for Wellington Beach and the maximum capacity will be 350 people.
A portion of that 350 people will be reserved for county residents.
“These rules aren’t to deter tourism generally, it’s to manage people,” Davis said.
“We’re just trying to discourage over tourism.”
For the full list of new fines in Prince Edward County click here.