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Niagara Falls
Friday, February 3, 2023
Queenston boat launch busy, despite pandemic rules

Gail Kendall
Special to Niagara Now/The Lake Report

The Queenston boat launch can be a whirlwind of activity or a quiet place to sit, walk and enjoy the view of the Niagara River on any given day.

Fishermen frequent the area daily, beginning at dawn and remaining until the early evening. Residents and visitors enjoy a tranquil walk along the waterfront leading up to the village. Gorgeous views of the Niagara River, Lewiston and being surrounded by nature during any season without crowds of people is idyllic.

The jet boats have always been a favourite activity with tourists but not so much with the residents. Large buses filled with tourists invade the quiet village, allowing visitors a thrilling boat ride through the Niagara rapids.

But, 2020 saw a different take on the waterfront area.

While the buses were not permitted to carry tourists, much to the delight of the residents, the jet boats still ran when permitted. This brought more and more individual traffic to the area.

With other Niagara region recreational opportunities limited, the boat launch became more popular.

In March 2021, Niagara Parks introduced paid parking at the launch. The revenue from the meters is used for maintenance and upgrades to the launches. Ten dollars will get you a full-day visit.

The boat launch has undergone a number of restrictions during the provincial lockdowns. From initially restricting auto traffic, to recently installing no trespassing signs, to cars, walkers and fishermen.

Despite the signage, many people continued to defy the order and populate the area.

The situation was further aggravated with the recent spring smelt run which attracted additional visitors and had fishermen at the waterfront throughout the day and the night. This resulted in an abundance of trash left behind that the residents took upon themselves to clean up.

Jim Armstrong, the Queenston Residents Association president, remarked, “When the road to the boat launch was closed off, this allowed those who wished to walk in the area to do so without having to be concerned about the hazards of vehicular traffic. I believe that many found this to be very enjoyable and more like past times when there was not so much traffic.”

“On the other hand, the vehicles that would (for the most part) normally park in the various areas provided by Niagara Parks, took to parking along Front/Princess and Dumfries streets, the north end of Queenston Street and the Willowbank parking area on Walnut Street in large numbers, at times exceeding 60 vehicles,” Armstrong said.

“This has carried on throughout the stay-at-home order periods, which were largely ignored from all perspectives.”

According to Niagara Parks Police chief Paul Forcier, “The boat launch was closed due to a lack of social distancing. The area has a much more confined footprint for pedestrians and vehicles and we found it was difficult for users to stay socially distanced.”

Opening the launch was consistent with the latest changes from the province easing outdoor restrictions for outdoor activities. Niagara Parks Police officers have been monitoring the area and observed this past weekend things were going well. Boaters and shoreline anglers were able to engage in activities while socially distanced.”

According to Armstrong, “Now that the boat launch area is wide-open again, there is a lot of traffic, making walking in the area much less enjoyable. At the same time, the parking areas are once again accessible, so on-street parking has diminished.”

“This is the reality of returning to a more or less normal situation,” he said and the association stays in contact with the parks commission to deal with any issues.

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