Fall colours traffic continues to plague AH
By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 22, 2018
Fall foliage, or rather the thousands of visitors the colourful leaves attract to the area each autumn, continues to be an issue in Algonquin Highlands township.
“So, fall colours are turning out to be the bane of our existence,” Mayor Carol Moffatt said during a Nov. 15 council meeting.
received a staff report detailing operations at the Dorset tower during
the foliage season (colours and visitors tend to peak on Thanksgiving
weekend) and another dealing with trespassing problems in Oxtongue Lake,
where motorists waiting to enter Algonquin Park often end up on private
“The number are tremendous at the tower,” Moffatt said.
The staff report showed that during the last weekend of September and the first two weekends of October, there was a combined total of more than 2,200 walk-up visitors to the tower, nearly 1,900 cars and more than 50 buses through its gates.
With limited parking at the site, many visitors end up parking along Highway 35 or along roadways close to the tower. To avoid paying the admission fee, some visitors park in these areas then hike up through the woods to reach the tower.
One visitor described the scene as being akin to a zombie apocalypse, with hoards of people wandering through the forest.
rec and trails manager Chris Card told councillors that some motorists,
after driving past the entrance, will then pull U-turns on Highway 35.
“That was the concern, that someone was going to get hurt,” said Moffatt.
The township had 10 staff members working at the tower during Thanksgiving weekend, but Card indicated that up-staffing to 13 or 14 people would likely be required to adequately handle the volume of traffic.
The township also hires paid-duty OPP officers to help manage traffic.
the tower property has limited parking space, Card noted that adding
parking spaces would not allow for any more people to use the tower at
any one time.
“We’ve turned vehicles away at the end of the day,” he said. “If we’re adding parking, we’re not adding capacity.”
with additional staff, some of Card’s suggestions for the future
included additional highway signage to warn motorists of the traffic
congestion; hand stamps for visitors to eliminate instances of
trespassing through the forest; additional washrooms; increased fees to
offset increased operating costs; and contacting tour bus companies
ahead of time to see what time their buses will be arriving.
Moffatt also suggested looking at a timed entry model, where visitors would need to book a visit to the tower in advance, be given a time at which to show up and a time limit on how long they can stay.
Oxtongue Lake, while local roads were “closed” with signage during the
weeks of fall colours, trespassing by visitors to Algonquin Park
“An area of concern was individuals trespassing on the cottage property on Elliot Road at the Highway 60 Bridge,” read a report from bylaw officer Dave Rogers and public works director Adam Thorn. “At times there were between 20 to 30 persons on the private property and using the docks owned by the property owner. Staff did ask the people to leave the property and had a good response and no incidents occurred. There is a concern of safety when dealing with large numbers of people while working alone.”
The township plans to erect actual barricades next fall, in addition to the signage, and staff will be looking into the cost of hiring private security to help deal with the issues in the hamlet.