Some Port Mouton residents say they've reached a tipping point after a particularly busy summer at Carter's Beach.
The amount of people visiting the popular Queens County destination reached new heights this year and in response, nearby resident Robert Ross is calling for no parking along Carter's Beach Road. "Really it's a very sad and unfair situation," he said.
Speaking to the Region of Queens Municipality on November 22, Ross described the situation as having changed the entire character of the beach, with upwards of 500 visitors on any given day for a beach that has a capacity for about 90.
The road leading to Carter's Beach has suffered backlogs in traffic in the past and both the region and province have tried remedying the situation by enlarging the parking lot through a $15,000 cost-sharing agreement.
In addition to noise, left over diapers and disrespectful visitors, Ross said people have used the dunes and areas behind peoples' private properties as bathrooms.
In a report to council, Ross says litter picked up at the annual September clean-up yielded 30 kg worth of cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastics and beer bottles. But what was most alarming were the number of clothes left behind and more than 170 recorded instances of used toilet tissue.
The Department of Natural Resources was tasked with clearing the garbage can on-site but only came once or twice a week and sometimes crews couldn't get through because vehicles were blocking the entrance, leaving the responsibility to local residents.
Carter's Beach is also in the midst of receiving a nature reserve designation from Nova Scotia Environment (NSE), along with Spectacle and Jackies Islands, but more than 25 pathway breaches have been identified in the dunes and the resulting damage has become worrisome.
NSE is working on a draft management plan for Carter's Beach that the municipality will need to consider at a future date.
But the problem, said Ross, is amplified by the lack of infrastructure and parking control. "Carter's can't handle the high levels of daily traffic to the beach."
Councillors agreed that something needs to be done to mitigate the affects of increased visitation while promoting other beaches in Queens County. "We don't do enough of that," said deputy mayor Susan MacLeod.
In addition to holding a community meeting, undergoing remediation to the beach and educating people, Ross recommended establishing a committee with representation from council, staff, the RCMP, first responders, local residents and various provincial government departments, something councillor Kevin Muise, whose district includes Carter's Beach, said he would support.
"I went a lot down there this summer and ... [the parking] was terrible," said Muise.
Mayor David Dagley said council hasn't had an opportunity to discuss a committee but the issue of Carter's Beach is "a priority item."
"We want to make the right decisions and not jump into something too quickly, but we also want to move the file because we don't want it to be delayed."
Installing no parking signs on either side of Carter's Beach Road must be "an absolute," said Ross.
The region was recently involved in a sign mix-up after no parking signs were posted on both sides of the road near Carter's Beach and visitors started getting ticketed. The signs were later kept on one side only.
Portable toilets were also installed to try to alleviate the bathroom issue, however, Ross told LighthouseNOW it was more of a "Band-Aid" fix to an issue that needs more permanent facilities and fewer people.
He and other Carter's Beach residents point to a more prominent online presence as having contributed to the problem.
The resulting publicity has seen visitors make day trips from out of town and across provinces including New Brunswick and P.E.I.
"It really just became such an inconvenience to us," said Brian Fisher, who, like Ross, described the disrespect he's seen from some who either dismiss the no parking signs or block driveways.
Still, others are more open to the idea of visitors, including Gary Williams who lives at the end of the road.
Williams maintains he hasn't had any trouble but noticed that this summer "exploded" with visitors. His solution would be to build a back road that cuts through the surrounding woodland to the parking lot.
He's spoken out previously against no parking signs arguing they will hurt the economy. Ron Campbell, owner of Seascape Restaurant and Convenience in Port Mouton, said he sees a correlation between increased business and summer traffic, although he too thinks parking is an issue.
In the meantime, Dagley said the region does not intend to publicize or market the beach but stressed that "no matter how we cut this, provincial beaches are a provincial responsibility."
"We help in the Region of Queens where we can but we help to an extent. We are not a municipality with surplus dollars and lots to spend so these issues and solutions don't come easy for the Region of Queens."
The region has extended an invitation to NSE to discuss the matter.