GNR warn of ‘constant nightmare debacle’ at Alte waterfall hotspot
“A constant debacle”. That is how António Martins, president of the Junta de Freguesia de Alte, classifies the gatherings of people that have taken place at Queda do Vigário, forcing the GNR “to go to the place every day”.
The capacity of the space would be, “maximum of maximum, for about 60 people”, but the numbers have been much higher.
“Unfortunately, it has been happening every day since the end of the State of Emergency, but at the weekend it was a disaster. There have been an average of 250 people at Queda do Vigário a day, in a relatively small area. The GNR has been going there every day – there are people who call, others who don’t”, explains Martins to press.
Last Sunday “we had to call the GNR, the people in the village are angry. The authorities went there and forced everyone out of the water because it was impossible. Even out of water, there is almost no distancing and it has been like this every day”, laments the mayor.
In Martins’ view, “as there are no fines foreseen, people don’t care so much. There are even cases of people pretending to leave when they see the GNR and then they return. The site is not classified as a river beach, there is no legal framework and the only thing that the authorities can do is to raise awareness”, he reinforces.
Queda do Vigário is often presented as one of the paradisiacal secrets of the Algarve, but as of recently, it appears to have been spoiled by the selfish and irresponsible behaviour of others. The Algarve Tourism Region (RTA) spoke of the region’s “waterfalls” in a recent campaign, with Vigário being one of the most sought after.
“In other years we would even be grateful, but now … Unfortunately, there are people who get there, they see that there are a lot of people, but they stay the same”, says the president of the Junta de Freguesia.
For Martins, patrols on horseback like those that the GNR have been carrying out, as well as raising awareness are no longer enough. The solution, he argues, is to ban the location outright, in order to legally stop individuals from gathering in large numbers as they are currently.
“It is something that I have discussed with the Council and that I will fight for because we, as Junta de Freguesia, do not have the competence to interdict the place”, he says. Vítor Aleixo, Mayor of Loulé, has so far not commented on the issue.
In the opinion of the Mayor of Alte, these gatherings are “a potential source of contamination that must be stopped”.
“We haven’t had any cases of COVID-19 here yet because we’ve all been responsible, but then you see those hundreds of people at the Vigário. It is a very complicated situation”, concludes Martins.