Effective immediately, our Covid protocol changes as follows:
Vaccines are no longer mandated;
Hikes are available to non-members, with the requirement that they complete the GHTA Inc. waiver every time they hike.
Covid is still present and still a possible threat, albeit less life-threatening than 2 years ago – so if someone is not well, it is expected that they will not attend a hike.
With the change in Provincial restrictions, group hikes can be up to 100 persons.
Otherwise we continue to require that attendees be fully vaccinated, wear masks when they cannot maintain distance, and not attend if they have possible Covid symptoms (even if negative on Covid-19 Rapid Antigen test).
Car-pooling recommendations remain in place – maximum 4 per vehicle, windows cracked, wear masks. If you do not feel comfortable car-pooling you are not under pressure to do so.
This protocol is effective as of Feb. 17, 2022.
While being cautiously optimistic, we are looking forward to the loosening of the Ontario Health Regulations with respect to Covid, which – as announced yesterday – will be effective as of January 31, 2022. At that time, we expect that outdoor group hike attendance can be increased to 25.
However, until that time, strict guidelines have to be followed by all hike participants:
– max 10 for group hikes; social distancing, including mask wearing if within 2 m of each other; only fully vaccinated hikers can participate in group hikes; car-pooling not recommended, unless with members of your household.
We have no provincial guidelines regarding carpooling, but we set our car-pooling guidelines to be logically consistent with the tightened restrictions currently in place. Thus, in keeping with the “loosened” restrictions expected Jan. 31, at that time we think it is reasonable to resume carpooling within the previous guidelines – windows cracked open for ventilation, and masks on, max 4 per vehicle.
In keeping with today’s provincial announcement, hike attendance will be limited to 10 persons including the hike leader, starting Jan. 5, 2022. We expect this restriction to last at least for 3 weeks, but an updated protocol will be issued as the situation changes. At this time, we should not carpool other than with members of our own household. Otherwise, all the other public health measures remain in place – observing social distance, wearing masks where distance cannot be maintained, and staying home if feeling ill.
The following is an update to the GHTA Inc COVID-19 protocol, effective immediately.
– Participants in scheduled GHTA club hikes must be fully vaccinated.
– Carpooling can now be resumed with 4 people max (incl. the driver) per car, wearing a mask (because of the indoor space and lack of social distancing), windows left cracked open. It is entirely the choice of drivers to allow 4 persons, or fewer if they are not comfortable with 4.
– We count on the honesty of our members with respect to their vaccination status. However, drivers who offer to shuttle participants in their private cars may ask passengers for proof of their vaccination status.
– During the hikes, public health measures continue including maintaining social distance and wearing masks when unable to do so.
– Individuals who do not feel well are asked not to participate in group hikes.
In September the Executive debated what to do regarding requiring Covid-19 vaccination for hike participation, but in the end decided to leave that up to individual hike leaders. The following message went out to the clubs to explain the position, and is still in force.
“In response to a question from some hike leaders regarding whether hike attendance can be restricted to fully-vaccinated hikers, the Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association Inc. does not have a policy on this issue. Individual hike leaders may choose to stipulate that only fully-vaccinated persons may attend their hikes, or they may choose not to so stipulate. For those hikes requiring attendees to be fully-vaccinated, it is important to make the stipulation clear in the hike description, for the information of all attendees. Wording such as: ATTENDANCE RESTRICTED TO FULLY (COVID-19) VACCINATED HIKERS should be inserted into the hike description. The digital sign-up apps and Google Calendar descriptions should be changed to reflect the restriction stipulation.”
Note that the City of Orillia has restricted parking in any of the waterside parks, including Tudhope Park and Centennial Park, for Fridays to Sundays, for the summer season. Only City of Orillia residents may park there. There is a fine of $80 for non-residents who park in these restricted parking lots. It is possible to park away from the water-side in the city, but attention must be paid to no parking signs, or municipal parking lots allow paid parking for several hours.
With the re-opening of Ontario as part of Step 3, effective Friday July 16, 2021, we looked into the carpooling situation for hiking clubs, and feel confident that our clubs can allow carpooling again, but with some “ride share” restrictions.
To ensure the safety of all hikers, we recommend:- limit of driver and 1 passenger (sitting diagonally behind the driver)- wear masks while in the vehicle- open windows (and avoid re-circulating of air)- wash or sanitize hands upon arrival
However, some people may not feel comfortable carpooling, and so we leave it to individual drivers and passengers as to whether they choose to do so at this point.
Also, while up to 100 individuals can now meet outdoors, it will be the hike leader’s decision as to how many hikers are allowed on the hike, and priority should be given to Ganaraska Hiking Trail members. Space permitting, non-members can also participate. Non-members will have to sign the waiver form.
All the other Covid-19 protocol is still in place – including maintain social distance, wear masks where not possible to be distanced, and don’t attend if you have symptoms. Contact/attendance lists must still be maintained. We recommend pre-registration for hikes as this facilitates keeping the contact list, but also gives the hike leader an opportunity to bring new members/non-members up to speed with regard to our Covid-19 protocol, as well as brief them about hike difficulty, etc.
Happy Hiking to you all
Frieda BaldwinPresident, Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association Inc.
The province has changed the outdoor gatherings limit to 25, which means that the Ganaraska Hiking Club can allow hike group sizes to increase to a maximum of 25. As many hike leaders are uncomfortable with larger groups, we encourage them to limit the size of the group to whatever they feel comfortable with. Otherwise, the GHTA Inc. Covid-19 protocol is unchanged – still no car-pooling allowed.
We have received an email from the Simcoe County Forest that hikers have been violating the “no trespassing” rule in the Crawford Tract, where logging is now taking place. The original notice of tract closure was posted on December 2, 2020, but it is still current. We risk losing access to these treasured forest tracts if we do not comply with the SCF requirements, so we trust that our hikers will not hike in this tract while the rule is in place.
We will update “Trail changes” when we can again enjoy this tract.
Carol Strickland, for Frieda Baldwin, President, GHTA Inc.