Township hires security company to keep people off Bridal Veil Falls staircase and prevent vandalism

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KAGAWONG – The Township of Billings has retained the services of a security firm to curtail incidents of trespassing, visitors using the Bridal Veil Falls staircase leading to the falls and vandalism.

“Yes, (as of) last Friday (the township retained) Cancom, a Manitoulin-based security company, to provide added security at the staircase area to the falls,” said Ian Anderson, Billings mayor, when contacted by the Recorder on Monday. “This a direct result of a small percent of people visiting Bridal Veil Falls who are steadfastly refusing to not use the staircase; and the daily vandalism that has occurred with people tearing down barricades and in some cases throwing them in the river.” 

The Township of Billings Emergency Control Group (BECG) continues to monitor the local COVID-19 situation and assess the reopening of various municipal facilities and amenities in the context of provincial emergency orders, public health guidelines and the staged approach to relaxing restrictions.

On Thursday of the last week, the BECG provided the following updates: Bridal Veil Falls, the stairs to access Bridal Veil Falls from the upper parking lot remain closed; the falls can be accessed by the Kagawong River Trail. “We have experienced many episodes of vandalism and trespass with respect to the stairs,” a press release from BECG states. “Additional security will be on site as of Friday, August 21 to prevent further incidents. We ask visitors and residents alike to show respect for fellow users and public property as they visit Bridal Veil Falls.”

Mayor Anderson told the Recorder, “our emergency control group is still concerned that the staircase provides for a great potential of people being in close proximity and not being able to physically distance, and constantly having to disinfect the staircase. So, we had the choice of throwing our hands up in the air as a council or taking the next step to prevent people from using the staircase. People can still access the falls by the trail below the hill.” The mayor said no charges or fines are being laid, “but having this company’s presence has worked very well. To date we have had absolutely no complaints, in fact on Facebook and other mediums the action we have taken has been very well received.”

“We have been able to get compliance, providing us the answer we need, that the action we took was the correct move,” continued Mayor Anderson. “To be clear, all we are trying to do is keep people from using the stairs to get down to the falls.”

The BECG release notes, “all recommendations and directions from Public Health Sudbury and District are in effect—users are expected to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from anyone not part of their household or social bubble. Even though this is an outdoor area, face coverings are recommended if you are unable to maintain appropriate distance from other users (ex. passing someone on the trail).”

Parking for visitors is available at the Park Centre (39 Henry Drive), the MTO parking area at the top of the falls on Highway 540, and the municipal parking lot on Highway 540 beside Dig and Doug’s Furniture. It was also pointed out there is ongoing construction in the vicinity of the trail head on Old Mill Road, so visitors are encouraged to use these alternate parking areas.

Mayor Anderson said, “we have had very few parking issues, only one day this summer did I see a lack of compliance and someone parking on the highway. People are using the municipal parking lot, the Park Centre parking lot and the MTO parking area.” He added, “I have been extremely surprised at how busy traffic at the falls has been this summer. Other municipalities have been surprised as well with the number of people coming to Manitoulin Island. People are obviously staying at home—within Ontario, which bodes well for tourism.”

The declared state of emergency within the township remains in place at this time.