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THUNDER BAY – The Friends of Chippewa Park say the decision to place the main beach under a permanent swim advisory is a “huge disappointment.”
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit on Friday announced the primary Chippewa Park beach would carry the advisory, because “historical water quality testing results have constantly exceeded acceptable E. coli bacterial levels.”
Swimming in water with high E. coli levels can result in skin, eye, nose and throat infections as well as gastrointestinal illness, the health unit added.
However, an executive member with the community organization disagrees with placing the label on the picturesque beach.
Pat Carli, treasurer of the Friends of Chippewa Park, said the group has been working to address the main issues the health unit has identified as causing water quality problems.
She said steps have been taken over the past number of years to address runoff into the water and the size of the geese population. Measures include dredging the area, installing storm sewers and changing the configuration of the beach.
They feel like they were finally making progress this year, which makes the move “surprising.”
“We might have partially solved the problem this year,” Carli said on Sunday. “We have placed in the bay what are called reflective flashing devices and they discourage the geese from landing. We have also introduced a falcon…which creates an atmosphere that discourages the geese and they’re not comfortable.”
She said one board member lives in close proximity to the park and had not seen any geese near the beach in “six weeks.”
There were no geese visible along the beach or water during the mid-afternoon on Sunday.
Carli expects Mother Nature is also lending a helping hand.
The abundance of snow this past winter has resulted in higher water levels which should result in cooler water temperatures, making a less hospitable environment for the bacteria.
Carli said Coun. Iain Angus, the organization’s secretary, has sent a letter to Dr. David Williams, the health unit’s Medical Officer of Health, urging for continued weekly monitoring of the water.
“We feel we have been somewhat successful and therefore we need the health unit to continue, and we are urging them to do so, to continue with the weekly testing to either prove or disprove our theory,” she said.
While the advisory does not close the beach or prevent people from swimming, it is a serious blow for the organization as they try to turn the park into a prime summertime destination.
Every Sunday from mid-June until the end of August they are hosting a Sundays in the Park concert series, with the Roy Coran band performing this week.
They are determined to move forward, even if the beach can’t be a drawing point.
“The purpose is to draw people out and see what a beautiful wilderness park this really is,” Carli said.
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