Our rush to beat the heat a boon for GRCA and its waterside parks

Blazing sunshine, soaring temperatures and prolonged droughts: summer is back in earnest this year.

For beating the heat, there’s nothing like making a splash, whether it is a trip to the beach, or a dip in a pool.

While your lawn might be complaining, it’s been a banner season for the Grand River Conservation Authority, which offers up sun, sand and the closest thing to surf without heading to a lake on a grander – i.e. Great – scale, as landlocked denizens of Waterloo Region are well aware.

All throughout the Grand River watershed, there are sandy beaches for wading and tanning, splash pads for a quick spritz of cold water and swimming pools to go take a dive in.

GRCA spokesperson Lisa Stocco notes the agency maintains eight different locations for such activities.

“They are spread throughout the watershed and the watershed is quite big,” she said. “They are great places to go in the hot weather. Some of them have bathrooms nearby, picnic areas and at the beaches, we have a life jacket loaner program where they will loan you a life jacket for a small deposit or hold on to your identification. It is a really great program.”

To keep the beaches safe and ready for sunbathers and swimmers, Stocco says the GRCA does twice-weekly testing for E. coli, and does their best to keep users informed. Recently, E. coli was found to be higher than Ministry of Health regulations at the beach in the Conestoga Lake Conservation Area just south of Drayton.

“The guideline from the Ministry of Health is 100 E. coli per 100 ml of water, but the beach isn’t closed,” she said. “It is posted, and people can choose if they want to swim there. We recently had a big rain event, and sometimes, that can make a difference in the testing. The best thing is to remind people to look at our website. We post the test results as soon as we have the information and we typically test about two times per week.”

The recommendation is to keep your head above water if swimmers decide to take a dip at the Conestogo Lake beach. Don’t swallow any water, and don’t open your eyes under water to reduce the chance of getting ill.

The positive test doesn’t mean the lake is unswimmable, Stocco says they just want to keep everyone up to date with the latest information.

“Just check our website,” she said. “They will see when we last updated it and as soon as a new sample is taken, and we receive the test results, it is on our website. They can count on it being up to date. E coli is the only thing we test for at the beaches.”

Along with Conestogo Lake, there are plenty of other beaches that will be open on a hot day.

Near Fergus, beach-goers can stop by Belwood Park to take a dip. The Elora Quarry’s beach is surrounded by cliffs, for a change of scenery. For something a bit bigger, visit Guelph Lake. A bit closer to the city, Laurel Creek in Waterloo has a beach waiting for towels and umbrellas. There are also beaches in Paris, Rockwood and at Shade’s Mills in Cambridge.

A bit closer to home, the Woolwich Memorial Centre is open to the public during certain hours of the day. The facility hosts public swim from Monday to Friday from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekends for $5 for adults. On Friday nights, the pool is open for the Toonie swim at 7 p.m.

In Wellesley, there is a splash pad open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day until September for a quick cool down.

For more information on the beaches in the GRCA area, visit their website at www.grandriver.ca. For a full swimming schedule at the WMC, visit www.woolwich.ca.

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