Due to the outdoor nature of Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, the facility is one of a few local businesses permitted to be open to the public during the provincial shutdown.
“When the shutdown was ordered, it became clear to us that we would be allowed to continue to operate our winter operations, albeit in a modified format, as we host snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter time and both of those activities are permitted,” said Mark Woodburn, general manager of Scenic Caves.
Operations at Scenic Caves resumed and reopened to the public on Jan. 5.
In an effort to maintain COVID-19 safety protocol, Scenic Caves has implemented a number of changes to its operations, including eliminating the ability to rent equipment, limiting on-site capacity and restricting indoor bathrooms and warm up buildings.
“We won't be renting snowshoes or cross-country skis,” Woodburn said.
The facility is asking all visitors to come dressed according to the outdoor conditions as there are no indoor facilities available for public use.
Currently, the public can make use of the cross-country ski trails, snowshoe trails, the suspension bridge, children's adventure playground, and trail of wooden animal carvings.
Tickets are only available for purchase on-site. No cash transactions will be accepted and tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Woodburn spoke to the Town of the Blue Mountains council at a meeting held earlier this week, stating that management and ownership at Scenic Caves held a lot of internal debate about how to manage the situation.
“Our situation is probably similar to many businesses out there, struggling trying to find a balance between what you're permitted to do and the right thing to do,” he said, adding that he was in favour of keeping the facility open to pass holders only, but that the ownership team made the decision to allow public access with modified operations.
“We will be one of the very few businesses that can be open to the public, and we're concerned about the volume of visitors we might see on-site and our ability to manage that volume safely,” Woodburn said.
He added that he was also concerned about the main road to the facility, Scenic Caves Drive, and the traffic congestion that may occur in the case of individuals being turned away due to capacity restrictions.
He voiced his concerns, similar to the owner of Scandinave Spa, around management and staff being saddled with the responsibility of enforcing travel restrictions and group sizes.
“I just don't see how businesses are going to be able to manage a scenario where they're asked to check individual points of origin and deny admission. If people are travelling across regions, I just don't know how that would be manageable,” he said.
In an effort to streamline guests, Scenic Caves has introduced a new COVID screening application.
All visitors, the public and pass holders alike, will be required to complete a self-assessment test for each visit, on the day of the visit before entering the grounds.
Mandatory face coverings are also required at the ticket counter and anywhere social distancing is not possible.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca