As the leaves turn orange, red and yellow and the crisp autumn air blows in at Foley Mountain, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) is preparing for its busiest season.
While many restrictions have eased surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many people hoping to get out of their house and explore the conservation area.
Rebecca Whitman, Foley Mountain Area supervisor, said they expect a high volume of visitors this Thanksgiving weekend and the following weekends to come as the leaves turn their bright colours.
"I would expect us to have higher volumes this year than in the past," said Whitman.
This time last year the conservation authority had to turn away some cars from the popular Foley Mountain in Westport and they are expecting a similar number of visitors trying to take a look at the Spy Rock lookout this year.
The RVCA is making adjustments to manage the rush but is sharing tips on how to make sure your visit to the mountain is a hit.
There are some places in the park that typically have a higher volume of visitors, like the popular Spy Rock lookout. Currently the conservation authority is asking people to limit how many people are at the lookout to 25 at a time, and is suggesting that visitors wear their masks in crowded areas, said Whitman.
"We've made sure to mark additional parking areas through the conservation area, because we are expecting such high volumes," said Whitman. "We're trying to help people find some spots to spread themselves out and they aren't disappointed if they don't find parking right at the lookout area."
According to Whitman, staff members will be working on the weekends when they expect the most visitors and they will be keeping an eye on how many people are in and if necessary will enforce a limit of people like last October.
"A few things we've been communicating to folks and will continue to do over the next few weeks is just some tips and tricks for having a successful visit," said Whitman.
"We're putting out these tips so that folks know what to expect when they come here and so we can make things as smooth as possible, hopefully so that as many people can enjoy the conservation area as possible."
Typically weekends and afternoons are very busy and filled with crowds, and the RVCA is suggesting visitors check out the peak on the off-peak times. Early in the day, mid-week or later in the evening will allow people to experience the lookout with shorter lines and will more likely provide a prime parking spot, stated the RVCA website.
"If you can consider using the other parking areas that are further along in the park, you can still visit Spy Rock, you might be able to catch it on your way out or you can work it into your hike," said Whitman.
More parking is available further along the park, like down the road at the Interpretive Centre. Visitors can take the trail less travelled and take the Rideau Trail to Spy Rock, or even take a hike through alternative Foley Mountain trails and still experience the fall colours with less of a crowd.
The Orange Maple Trail is one of the alternative trails suggested to beat the crowds; the White Pine Trail is another suggested hike as well.
Visitors are asked to bring change or pay online, rather than using a credit card, to reduce congestion entering the park and spend the day enjoying the rest of Foley Mountain and the 10 kilometers of trails for all skills levels, or have a backup plan if they are turned away that the gate because of overcrowding.
(Jessica Munro is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times