E.coli closes White Pine Beach, but doesn’t deter crowds

Swimmers looking to beat the heat at White Pine Beach in Belcarra Regional Park will have to stay ashore.

Fraser Health has issued an advisory to avoid swimming in the waters in the north part of Sasamat Lake at the beach after single testing for E.coli contamination exceeded 400 parts of the bacteria per 100 ml of water. A test conducted on July 24 came back with 5,172 parts of E.coli per 100 ml. of water. The beach at the south end of the lake was just under the safety standard, with 393 parts per 100 ml.

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If water contaminated with E.coli is ingested, it can cause symtoms like cramping, nauseau, vomitting and bloody diarrhea. It is usually caused by human or animal feces in the water.

Still, the fetid water, as well as a decision by Metro Vancouver that manages Belcarra Regional Park to reduce available parking spot by half as of last Friday, didn’t seem to discourage the onslaught of visitors through the sunny, hot weekend. Social media posts said traffic was already backing up along Bedwell Bay Road by 8:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Monday, Port Moody police reported its officers had attended to numerous assault calls at the lake, including two that involved bear spray, as well as calls for open alcohol use and abuse of bylaw officers.

"The sheer number of people attending the park would appear to be contributory to the issues," said a press release, adding interpersonal issues were causing "friction" between park goers.

Anmore Mayor John McEwen reported similar congestion at Buntzen Lake that is managed by BC Hydro, where the number of vehicles allowed to park in its lots has been restricted for several weeks. He said the village is reallocating staff to step up the enforcement of parking bylaws near the park, and fines for violations have been increased to $200.

Similar efforts have also been taken around Belcarra where both the village of Belcarra and the city of Port Moody have restricted roadside parking and increased enforcement of parking regulations.

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov said visitors should consider travelling further afield to beat the heat so that more drastic measures to respect physical distancing during the current COVID-19 pandemic aren’t implemented.

Metro Vancouver’s Steve Schaffrick said the regional authority is working with the various municipalities where its parks are located to find a way to discourage crowds from converging and causing chaos, including better use of its social media channels as well as refining its messaging to suggest people stay away once parking lots are full, rather than suggesting alternate ways to travel to the parks.

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