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Wasaga Beach shut down in wake of massive car event

York Regional Police assisted the OPP in halting the event at which people disregarded rules for social gatherings, physical distancing, police say
20190310 opp cruiser OPP
Courtesy OPP.

Provincial police remain on the scene Sunday in Wasaga Beach where hundreds of modified cars descended this weekend for stunt driving, racing and more.

Dangerous driving, lack of physical distancing and disregard for public gathering limits led the Ontario Provincial Police to start turning motorists away from the beach town on Saturday night.

The town saw a large influx of car enthusiasts starting Friday for what police called an unsanctioned car rally.

Late on Saturday, OPP officers set up at the entrances to town and began turning away motorists who were not Wasaga Beach residents.

“There was an overall disregard of any kind of rules at all, so they made the decision in the interest of public safety to shut down the town, for lack of a better word,” said OPP Sgt. Jason Folz. “It’s just a matter of time before somebody gets injured or killed based on these kind of driving behaviours.”

Folz said there was a lack of physical distancing and complete disregard for the limits on outdoor social gatherings (25 people), which were implemented to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I get the sense that certainly some of the local residents were frustrated with the with the number of people and the lack of respect for rules and dangerous driving behaviour,” he said.

OPP were assisted by a helicopter, which Folz said was used to track people fleeing from police, monitor gatherings, and collect evidence. Police from York Region and Peel Region also assisted.

Folz said information on the number of tickets and charges handed out over the weekend is not available yet but some vehicles were seized and tickets were issued under the Highway Traffic Act and the Reopening Ontario Act, which limits outdoor gatherings to 25 people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s very concerning for all police agencies involved,” Folz said. “We’re trying to eliminate that culture where people think they can drive anywhere they want just because they bring lots of numbers of people to block roads and do whatever they please.”

Folz says the “car takeover” in Wasaga Beach, Ont., continued early Sunday.

Shane MacDonald is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with the Barrie Advance