Two local residents have asked The Blue Mountains council to consider relaxing town parking rules at the Ward’s Road waterfront access point.
Lisa Dufraimont and Kathleen Gates were a delegation at council’s committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 25. They requested that the town consider loosening the parking restrictions on Wards Road to at least allow cars to stop and drop off visitors to the waterfront area adjacent to the road.
Dufraimont and Gates said they have been users of the waterfront at Wards Road for more than 30 years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the town introduced strict parking/no-stopping restrictions in the area to alleviate traffic congestion on Wards Road, which is a short stretch of road between Highway 26 and Georgian Bay.
“We can’t drive down to the beach legally,” said Dufraimont, who called the restrictions an “unreasonable restraint on public access to the beach.”
The delegates noted that COVID restrictions across the board have been rolled back over the past year and they asked council to look at the issue. Both said they found it dangerous to park on the other side of Highway 26 and then cross the busy highway to access the waterfront area.
In response, council voted unanimously to request a staff report on the matter. Ryan Gibbons, director of community services, said he would be pleased to review the matter.
“I’m happy to take a further look at this with our bylaw team,” he said.
Gibbons said if the signs on the road were changed from no stopping to no parking, that would allow for dropping off and picking up visitors to the waterfront.
“There may be an opportunity in just changing the signs,” he said.
Staff confirmed the rules were introduced during the pandemic to give OPP enforcement powers to control traffic/parking, trespassing and vandalism issues on that section of the road.
“We definitely had challenges throughout the pandemic. Certainly, it’s time to review that, access to the water – that is something that is important,” said Gibbons.
Members of council were supportive of receiving a report from staff reviewing the matter.
“This is a pressing issue,” said Coun. Alex Maxwell.
Coun. Gail Ardiel noted that what was necessary during the COVID-19 situation, may not be required anymore.
“We’re not in a pandemic anymore,” she said.
CAO Shawn Everitt said the staff review would include information about town areas that are formally recognized as beaches and areas that are not.
“We have a number of these – what we would call – access points,” said Everitt. He noted it’s difficult for the town to provide amenities like parking, garbage and washroom facilities at these sites.