Railway Tunnel opens Friday

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When Brockville residents join people across Ontario to dine in outdoor patios Friday, they can cool off afterward with a walk in the Brockville Railway Tunnel.

City Hall announced earlier this week the popular attraction will open Friday morning as the province enters Stage One of its gradual re-emergence from COVID-19 lockdown.

The tunnel will open at 9 a.m. Friday and operate on a nine-to-nine schedule, with the same caveats in place as in last year’s mid-pandemic reopening.

“We are asking people to wear their masks while they are in the tunnel, which is the same as we did last year,” said city manager Janette Loveys.

In keeping with provincial guidelines, Loveys suggested people “use with caution” if they see more than 10 people in the tunnel.

Other safety measures in place last year included advising tunnel-goers to stay to the right and respect physical distancing with no congregating.

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City officials are excited to be able to reopen the tunnel, added Loveys.

The waning of the pandemic’s third wave is allowing the city to reopen the tunnel earlier than last year, when it was open from mid August to early October.

Echoing comments earlier in the week from Mayor Jason Baker, Loveys said the city’s goal is to balance safety with a reopening of businesses and activities.

Elsewhere in the city, camping will reopen at St. Lawrence Park and on city-owned islands. Loveys said notices will soon be placed online for people to register.

But local residents will have to wait longer before they can go inside the Brockville Museum or the Brockville Public Library. Loveys said both those facilities are not expected to open their doors until Stage Three, which is projected to happen later in the summer.

In the meantime, provincial “Safe Restart” funding aimed at helping the city emerge from the pandemic has allowed Brockville to hire four temporary bylaw officers for the summer, whose job will be to help ensure people are complying with COVID-19 safety protocols.

Loveys said the bylaw officers will “give guidance” to people and “communicate these health protocols,” rather than take punitive action, but they will be empowered to issue fines for deliberate and flagrant violations of safety measures.

The bylaw officers will relieve the pressure on the Brockville Police Service to ensure COVID measures are being followed, added Loveys.

At Tuesday’s virtual council meeting, Baker urged residents to celebrate the relaxation of restrictions with caution.

“Keep in mind that if we are offered an inch and we take a mile, it likely just delays us getting to Phase Two,” said the mayor.

“Let’s be smart, let’s enjoy the things that we’re allowed to do, but keep safety in mind as we move forward.”

Sticking to the rules is important for the people whose businesses are not yet allowed to reopen, said the mayor.

“Let’s keep striving to give the province absolutely no reason to delay a Phase Two relaunch,” said Baker.

Rzajac@postmedia.com

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