Quebec tourists “invade” public beaches in the Gaspé region, fueling tensions



Photos posted to Facebook showed tents and camping chairs lined up along a beach, along with empty beer cans and other trash littering the sand

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The annual two-week construction vacation in Quebec is in full swing, and with many Quebecers staying closer to home this summer due to COVID-19, towns in the Gaspé region are seeing an influx of tourists attracted to the charming seaside landscapes.


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But the mayor of Gaspé, Quebec, a popular tourist destination on the east coast of the Gaspé Peninsula, fears some visitors will camp wherever they find space, harming the environment and disturbing locals.

“We see a lot of tents on public beaches, in forests, on private land without the approval of the owners of those lands,” Mayor Daniel Côté said in an interview Thursday.

Côté said he was optimistic that tourists would come to Gaspé this summer despite the pandemic. Authorities closed the area to foreigners earlier this year to stop the spread of COVID-19.

But Cote said he was caught off guard by the number of tourists who arrived without hotel or campsite reservations. “People have invaded the public beaches and decided that this is where they will set up their camp,” he said.


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A series of photos posted to Facebook on Wednesday showed tents and camping chairs lined up along a beach, along with empty beer cans and other trash littering the sand. The Canadian Press could not independently verify the photos, which were allegedly taken at Haldimand Beach in Gaspé.

The post was shared nearly 600 times Thursday afternoon and garnered more than 300 comments, many of which are critical of tourists and calling on the city to take action. Côté said public beaches are under provincial authority, so the municipality has limited means to intervene.

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But he said Gaspé intends to hire people to patrol high-traffic public areas and educate visitors on the rules, which include banning driving vehicles on public beaches and dumping litter in all areas. security.

The city is also working with the Quebec Provincial Police and the neighboring Mi’kmaq Nation of Gespeg to protect the area, Cote added. “As a municipality, we don’t have the coercive power to force people to leave the areas… so we are going to raise awareness. “

In a statement released Thursday, officials from the Mi’kmaq Nation of Gespeg said unregulated camping in the area had grown “out of control” and was negatively affecting local wildlife and ecosystems.

“On beaches, stranded wood, which is important in slowing erosion, is burned without knowing its consequences,” the statement said. “Migratory birds are disturbed at their nesting sites. We can’t even keep track of the amount of garbage littering the waters, beaches, parking lots and rest areas. “


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The regional public health authority launched an awareness campaign this month to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 in Gaspésie amid the wave of tourists.

Small teams are deployed across the region to ensure that people comply with public health directives, explained Clémence Beaulieu-Gendron, spokesperson for the CISSS de la Gaspésie. She said several local mayors have asked public health teams to come to their towns.

To date, a team of four workers is working in the Sainte-Anne-des-Monts sector, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, while others have been sent to Gaspé, Percé and Carleton-sur-Mer. . .

“They are not police officers. It’s important to say it, ”said Beaulieu-Gendron of the workers in an interview. “It’s really to raise awareness to avoid a second wave, or at least to decrease the risk of the virus spreading in the region during the summer holidays.”


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Lily Gang, owner of Motel-Camping Fort Ramsay in Gaspé, said this summer seems just as busy as in years past. His business has 32 motel rooms and 42 campsites, which can normally accommodate both trailers and tents.

But Gang said she chose not to take any reservations for tent camping this year because she felt uncomfortable with guests using shared toilets and showers during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she was also concerned that campers could put her cleaning staff at risk.

“I don’t know how to handle so many people together,” Gang said in an interview.

Côté said the area typically receives 800,000 visitors each summer, but this year he expects more. He said he intends to speak to the provincial government this fall to make sure public beaches are not overrun again next year.

In the meantime, he encouraged tourists to plan their trips to the area in advance – and only to visit if they have reservations. “It will be a great pleasure for us to welcome you, as long as you behave with respect towards the people of the neighborhood. “



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