As Environment Canada issued a heat warning for Montreal and the surrounding regions Saturday, many Montrealers were looking to cool off — even if it meant going for a swim at a closed beach.
Verdun Beach isn’t technically open until June 28, says Desmarchais-Crawford borough councillor Marie-Andrée Mauger, but that didn’t stop dozens of swimmers and sunbathers from spending the first heatwave of the summer at the urban beach.
The beach is located just behind the Verdun auditorium and Arthur Therrien park.
Most beachgoers said it wasn’t difficult to respect social distancing guidelines, and towels made it especially easy to measure an appropriate distance.
“I don’t see how it’s really any different than going to a park,” said Rhys Mason, who lives in a nearby borough.
Even with the lifeguard chair empty, swimmers weren’t too concerned for their safety.
“I’m not worried for me, I think the parents are very careful with the kids,” said avid Verdun beach visitor David Touchette.
Mom Juliette Herivault agreed and said, with lots of people around, it’s also not a worry for her.
With many pools closed due to COVID-19 safety measures, the beach is one of the few places around the area where people can cool off.
But some found the sheer number of people in one place to be the most daunting. It’s something Mauger says is going to be one of the borough’s biggest challenges, especially after seeing how popular the beach was last season.
“Eighty people will be allowed to be in the swimming area at one time, it’s about 20 per cent of the capacity of last year,” said Mauger.
She says with the smaller capacity they are counting on people to cooperate. That includes shorter beach trips, and changing and showering ahead of time as changing stalls will be closed.
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“We encourage people to come ready to swim, stay there for an hour then leave so that other people can come,” she said.
“It’s not to spend the day, its to spend an hour.”
She says monitoring the capacity will not be an added task for the lifeguards.
It’s unclear how safety measures will be enforced as officials are currently working out the details, but when the beach officially reopens on June 28, people can expect it to be very different compared to the current situation.
Montreal police spokesperson Véronique Comtois said officers understand it’s hot but people need to continue practicing social distancing measures.
Montreal police are still able to fine people not complying with these measures under the extended state of emergency. Comtois said their goal is not to fine people but to remind them to keep their distance.
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