The Town of Lake Cowichan bit the bullet last week and decided to ban tubing on the Cowichan River for the summer.
Not only are they regulating the tubing businesses in town, they are also planning to block off and patrol access to the river within their boundaries to stop people from bringing their own tubes to the riverside and launching into the water.
It’s clearly a serious effort, and one brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The province has mandated that all large gatherings continue to be cancelled through the summer, and Lake Cowichan has decided that this means on the water as well as on land.
There is sense to this move. The virus doesn’t care if you’re floating down the river on a tube or crammed into a mosh pit at a music festival. Proximity to other people — specifically, maintaining physical distancing, is key to stopping the spread of the virus.
But we wonder if policing the tubing ban isn’t going to prove to be an impossible task.
There are long stretches of the river, after all, that fall outside of the Town of Lake Cowichan’s boundaries; what about these parts of the watercourse? What about people launching from private property?
For that matter, there is a larger question here. What will be done this summer about beaches in general? Will people be not allowed to use Cowichan Lake for recreation, for fears of overcrowding? Or will the town just keep its own beaches closed? Will only waterfront property owners be allowed to go swimming this summer?
What about beaches in the rest of the Vancouver Island? Will oceanfronts be closed? Is it reasonable to even attempt such a thing? Given the fact the province is poised to re-open parks for day use in a week or so, and possibly camping next month, we don’t think so.
Many Island communities have kept their parks and trails open for users during social distancing, relying on self-policing (and, in some instances, closed parking lots) to keep people safe.
We’d argue that going to the beach should fall into a similar category. We have to count on individual citizens to be smart and maintain physical distancing.
There are some areas where this will be difficult, and we expect local government staff may have to limit the number of people in certain places, as they have been at some parks already.
But we hope to see something other than an outright closure or ban.