By Sue Tiffin
After two years of closure, Dorset tower will be open to visitors once again. Additionally, recreational programming in Algonquin Highlands that has been altered or cancelled throughout the pandemic will be running this year.
At a March 3 meeting of Algonquin Highlands council, Chris Card, parks, recreation and trails manager, brought a plan to reopen the tower and restart recreational programming as provincial guidelines and public health measures in place during the COVID-19 pandemic are eased.
Dorset tower has been closed to the public throughout the pandemic, since social distancing and sanitization requirements were deemed to be too difficult to maintain on the tower structure.
Council had discussed the tower in 2021 and asked that staff look into options for advanced ticket sales to help manage an abundance of traffic and large groups during the fall colour season. Card said this software is now available, a contract with CAMIS Inc. having been approved during the last council meeting.
While various recreational programs have still been running virtually or outdoors throughout the pandemic, designed to be “COVID proof,” meaning they could operate throughout any phase of the province’s re-opening plans, some programs including the swim and soccer programs have not run.
Card said the township’s emergency operations control group has been reviewing these approaches, but as of Feb. 22, that group had been disbanded and direction returned to the discretion of council. Card recommended previously cancelled programs be given approval to continue, ensuring COVID-19 regulations be met.
Council was in support of both the tower reopening and the recreational programming resuming.
“Folks have really missed programming and they’ve missed the tower,” said Councillor Jennifer Dailloux. “I wholeheartedly support us planning to reopen and as Chris said, if things change, different recommendations will be brought back and considered at that time. But I’m fully in support.”
“I agree and would really like to see the tower reopening,” said Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen. “I know everyone’s missed being able to go up there and enjoy the facilities there.”
Card said the Dorset tower roadway is scheduled for ditching, culvert replacement and resurfacing this year, and recommended the tower open following that road work, which would require three days with a timeframe for the work dependent on spring thaw.
“Depending on conditions, this may mean that the tower will not open until the end of May or start of June,” said Card. Typically the tower opens for May long weekend.