Tubing has been banned on the Cowichan River this summer due to COVID-19. (file photo)

Editorial: Ban on tubing Cowichan River may be impossible to enforce

There are long stretches of the river that fall outside of the Town of Lake Cowichan’s boundaries

The Town of Lake Cowichan’s council bit the bullet last week and decided to ban tubing on the Cowichan River for this summer.

Not only are they regulating the tubing businesses in town, they are also planning to block off and patrol accesses to the river within their boundaries, to stop people from bringing their own tubes to the riverside and launching into the water.

It’s clearly a serious effort, and one brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The province has mandated that all large gatherings continue to be cancelled through the summer, and the Town of Lake Cowichan has decided that this means on the water as well as on land — which only makes sense. The virus doesn’t care if you’re floating down the river on a tube or crammed into a mosh pit at a music festival. Proximity to other people — specifically, maintaining physical distancing, is key to stopping the spread of the virus.

When we first heard we did wonder a little if they couldn’t have limited the number of people allowed at one time, however, upon reflection, this would seem to be an almost impossible task. Actually, we wonder if policing the tubing ban isn’t going to prove to be an impossible task anyway.

There are long stretches of the river, after all, that fall outside of the Town of Lake Cowichan’s boundaries; what about these parts of the watercourse? What about people launching from private property?

For that matter, there is a larger question here. What will be done this summer about beaches in general? Will people be disallowed from using Cowichan Lake for recreation, for fears of overcrowding? Or will the town just keep their own beaches closed? Will only waterfront property owners be allowed to go swimming this summer?

What about beaches in the rest of the Cowichan Valley? Will oceanfronts be closed? Is it reasonable to even attempt such a thing?

The Cowichan Valley Regional District and its member municipalities have kept their parks and trails open for users, and we’d argue that the right to, and benefits of, going to the beach fall into a similar category. We have to count on individual citizens to be smart and maintain physical distancing. There are some areas where this will be difficult, and we expect local governments’ staff members may have to limit the number of people in certain places, as they have been at some parks already. But we hope to see something other than an outright closure or ban.

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