Town of Wasaga Beach, Sept. 18, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — “On behalf of Council, I’m proud of our staff and the entire team that’s been working relentlessly behind the scenes for nine months on the policy, operations and communications related to the issue of large, illegal car rallies,” said Mayor Brian Smith. “Staff developed a proactive plan, executed the plan, and the plan worked. Now, Council and staff will sit down and review lessons learned and look at how we can continue to improve our approach. This challenge is certainly not unique to Wasaga Beach — and that’s why Council is also calling on the Province to come to the table with a taskforce and work with our Town and our region on even more coordinated, sustainable solutions.”
WASAGA BEACH – This Labour Day long weekend turned out to be one of the most successful last long weekends of summer in years for the Town of Wasaga Beach. It also saw the Town of Wasaga Beach successfully activate its new, three-tier, emergency response plan to deal with unsanctioned car rallies.
Developed between May and August 2023, and driven by Council and the Town’s Municipal Law Enforcement department, this proactive, tiered approach is built on a high level of trust and cooperation with first responders including the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). It is based on the provincially mandated emergency response framework, outlined in the Municipal Act that is typically used during natural disasters and other emergencies.
On September 14, after successfully deterring a large 500 vehicle car rally over the Labour Day weekend, the Town presented an update to Council and the public. Here are some highlights:
- The Town’s emergency response was elevated to Tier Three on August 31, when OPP confirmed that a large, illegal car rally was imminent.
- By noon on August 31, the Emergency Operations Centre was activated and the Town’s Incident Management Team (IMT) began operationalizing the Illegal Car Rally Operations Plan.
- Over a period of 48 hours the following communications were issued:
- Town of Wasaga Beach Continues to Take Action to Ensure a Safe Last Long Weekend of Summer
- Wasagabeach.com/travel-updates was created to provide updated information about road closures, traffic diversions and traffic calming measures as well as an FAQ to assist resident and visitors. This page was continuously updated as operations proceeded.
- 13 posts were made through the Town’s Facebook and Twitter account advising the public about ongoing operations and driving them to wasagabeach.com/travel-update for the most up-to-date information.
- Over that same 48 hour period, the following actions were taken:
- All road closures, traffic diversion and traffic calming measures were mobilized.
- Signs advising the public of charges under the car rally bylaw where installed at entrance points to Town.
- Copies of the Court Order were distributed to Short Term Accommodations, posted at all Town owned facilities and all road closures.
- Municipal Law Enforcement and OPP Community Liaison Team met with businesses educating them on the potential impacts of the rally.
- Municipal Law Enforcement officers continued to monitor for violations of the Vehicular Nuisance Event bylaw within Town.
- The IMT provided situational updates to Town staff and Council every 8 hours.
At 9:00 p.m. on September 2, the Town was informed that approximately 500 cars had started to organize in an adjacent community with plans to travel to Wasaga Beach. Staff worked quickly to temporarily close Klondike Park Road, which prevented a large group of vehicles from entering Town. A small group of vehicles were able to enter the Town of Wasaga Beach and any illegal activity was safely and quickly addressed.
On the morning of September 3, the following communication was issued:
Illegal Car Rally Last Night Swiftly Dispersed
Less than 24 hours after being advised that a 500+ car rally was imminent, the Town welcomed over 12,000 residents and visitors to its annual end of summer Memories of Summer music festival.
On September 14, the Council of the Town of Wasaga Beach passed a motion to request a provincial task force be assembled to create a municipal response framework to protect communities from unsanctioned car rallies with a mandate to include, but not limited to:
- Investigate legislative enhancements and tools to assist municipalities in responding and enforcing unsanctioned car rallies.
- Investigate expanded powers for Municipal Law Enforcement officers.
- Develop a proactive approach to awareness, prevention, enforcement and collaboration across all enforcement personnel, including police, municipal law enforcement officers and other provincial offences officers.
- Investigate harsher penalties and increased fines for unsanctioned car rally organizers and participants.
The motion also requests that the Province provide funding to municipalities to assist with the cost of enforcing unsanctioned car rallies.
“To anyone that feels the Town’s actions were detrimental to our tourism economy over the long weekend – we point to the 12,000 guests that chose to celebrate the last long weekend of summer in Wasaga Beach,” said CAO Andrew McNeill. “Our past and our vision for the future of Wasaga Beach is family friendly fun. If your business plan relies on this illegal event and non-law-abiding demographic, it might be time for you to revisit your business plan. It’s very important that we send a message that we do not welcome this activity in the Town of Wasaga Beach.”
- Illegal car rallies impact municipalities across Ontario, from Simcoe County to Peel Region and beyond.
- The Town of Wasaga Beach has successfully leverage section 128 of the Municipal Act, to develop policies and laws to respond to illegal car rallies. The Ontario Municipal Act was last updated 20 years ago, in 2003.
Learn more about the injunction granted to the Town of Wasaga Beach by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
Learn more about the Success of the Memories of Summer music festival
Director of Strategic Communications & Intergovernmental Affairs
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