Guelph Lake Conservation Area is now all closed up, although, as usual, a number of people are accessing the expansive property northeast of Guelph for winter recreational purposes.
While many appear to enjoy the space in the winter, doing so is trespassing, a GRCA official said this week.
Unlike other Grand River Conservation Authority areas close to Guelph – namely Belwood Lake Conservation Area and Rockwood Conservation Area – Guelph Lake is primarily a warm weather amenity for camping, swimming and boating. It shuts down in the cold season.
“While the GRCA does offer winter programming at select parks, and others are open year round, a number of our parks also closed from mid-October to late April, including Guelph Lake,” said GRCA spokesperson Lisa Stocco in an email.
She explained that the revenue used to operate the parks is self-generated, and the agency doesn’t have the capacity to safely maintain and staff all parks year-round. Winter programming is only offered in a select number of GRCA parks.
Belwood Lake, about 20 minutes north of Guelph is one of the parks that remains open, but there is no formal winter program there. The same is true for Rockwood, which is a major tourist destination due to it unusual rock formations, glacial potholes, trails and reservoir. Rockwood will be open throughout the winter for hiking, but will be closed from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3.
In previous winters, Belwood hosted ice-fishing, but it appears it won’t this year as a way to protect its fish stocks.
“There will be no ice fishing program offered at Belwood this winter in order to protect the in-reservoir fish population,” Stocco said. “The water level in the reservoir is low due to the dry weather we’ve experienced since the spring.”
The low water levels place considerable stress on fish, she added. With less water to live in, there is a reduction in water quality and its oxygen content.
“Ice fishing would place additional stress on the fish at this time, and could have impacts for the next fishing season,” she added. “Not offering the ice fishing program is a measure we are taking now in order to protect the health of the in-reservoir fish for the longer term.”
You will have to go some distance from Guelph to access GRCA cross-country skiing trails and snowshoeing terrain. Those will be offered in Laurel Creek in Waterloo, Pinehurst Lake north of Paris, and Shade’s Mills in Cambridge. Trails are groomed, and equipment rentals are available on weekends and Family Day, weather permitting.
Ice fishing is offered at Pinehurst and Shade’s Mills beginning in the New Year. Conditions will be monitored to ensure ice safety.
To learn more about GRCA winter programs www.grandriver.ca/winterprograms.