Ontario provincial parks will rent you a canoe and paddle right now but not a lifejacket
Planning on spending some quality time with nature at one of Ontario's beautiful provincial parks this summer? If canoeing, kayaking or paddleboating happen to be on your agenda, don't forget a lifejacket.
While 75 of Ontario's 330 provincial parks currently rent out canoes and other small aquatic vessels for a fee, lifejacket rentals are currently suspended due to COVID-19.
The strange thing is that you can still rent canoes, oars and even boat safety kits — just not lifejackets, which under Canadian law you must have with you to ride any of the above-stated pleasure crafts.
In other words, you can rent a canoe, but you won't be allowed to take it on the water unless you're wearing a personal floatation device (PFD).
**REMINDER** Visitors are responsible for bringing their own PFDs when renting park watercraft this season.— Ontario Parks (@OntarioParks) August 7, 2020
Even if you’re a confident swimmer, a personal flotation device (PFD) is a must! https://t.co/w5Jd6ZQCmT pic.twitter.com/IZDI7x7bF9
Normally, Ontario Parks will let visitors use their lifejackets free of charge at 67 different sites as part of a free PFD lending program. You don't even need to rent a canoe (rates for which vary by park) to borrow one.
Well, not normally.
Rentals have been available since provincial parks got the go-ahead to resume operations under Stage 2 of reopening in May, but a COVID-19-specific FAQ section on the agency contains the following message for visitors:
"Please bring your own safety gear such as lifejackets, PFDs, bike helmets, etc."
There are smart COVID rules and then there are . . . other ones. At Oastler Lake Provincial Park, for instance, they'll rent you a canoe, paddles and a safety kit, but you can't rent a lifejacket "because of COVID." Not sure I've seen a more pointless restriction, @OntarioParks— Chris Nuttall-Smith (@cnutsmith) August 11, 2020
Ontario Parks does not specify on its website why it has suspended lifejacket rentals amid the COVID-19 crisis but a cleaning guide recently published by the Kentucky-based Life Jacket Association provides some insight.
The organization recommends that PFDs only be reused once every 72 hours.
"COVID-19 virus may exist 3 days on or in clothing. Virus can exist longer on porous surfaces," reads the guide. "Synthetic fabrics, plastic and metal surfaces may harbor the virus longer."
It seems as though there's a good reason for the PFD lending program's suspension — but that probably won't soften the blow for anyone who comes to the park in hopes of renting a boat, only to find out that they need to go buy a lifejacket first.
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