In a summer where travelling was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Durham residents found themselves spending their weekends at provincial parks and beaches.
One of them, Sandbanks Provincial Park, in Prince Edward County, a less than two-hour drive from Oshawa, is home to the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation.
The park is best known for its Dunes Beach on Lake Ontario.
The Friends of Sandbanks is a not-for-profit charity organization which undertakes various projects and initiatives to support park projects and educate visitors of the park.
The Friends’ most recent project has been the development of the dunes boardwalk. The new boardwalk will connect the dunes beach to various nature trails and the West Lake dunes.
John Brebner, board member for the Friends of Sandbanks, says the boardwalk will provide improved accessibility to individuals with mobility issues and emergency services.
“One problem at Sandbanks is there’s no lifeguards, so you’re on your own, and dunes beach as beautiful as it is, does experience a bit of a drop off and there have been a couple of drownings over the years,” says Brebner. “People went in probably swimming up to their knees and next thing you know they’re in over their head.”
The 120-metre long boardwalk project began in 2018, after several years of flooding left the original boardwalk often submerged to mid-thigh depth in water.
The new boardwalk, which is made from recycled plastic, will cost about $100,000 to build with majority of funding coming through donations made to, and by, the Friends of Sandbanks.
The materials of the boardwalk are expected to last up to 50 years.
Robin Reilly, superintendent at Sandbanks, says more funding is still needed to ensure the completion of the boardwalk.
“We’ve placed an order for a whole bunch of materials already which hasn’t arrived yet, so that will arrive sometime over the winter,” says Reilly, “beyond that we will need $20,000 of new materials.”
With the park often at max capacity during the summer season, development of the boardwalk comes during the shoulder seasons for the park, which is following Labour Day until the park opens in mid-April.
The park has two staff members working on the boardwalk regularly with a further two occasional helpers, say Reilly. It can be expected to be completed by the end of 2021 with additions such as seating areas being added later.
Sandbanks saw an increase in visitors this past season with more than 800,000 visits.
Reilly says it’s a number which does not have much room to grow.
“It’s a popular park, we turn people away because we’re full all the time, so the numbers can’t go up very much because we just don’t have capacity to squeeze more people in, so it’s getting there,” says Reilly. “You know the numbers go up in the spring and the fall, but the summer numbers don’t rise because we were full regularly throughout the summer.”
To support Sandbanks provincial park and donate to future projects, visit the Friends of Sandbanks website.