Beach parking issues are always a concern for Tiny residents, but township staff wants to assure everyone that there is a method to the madness.
Diane Vautour spoke to Tiny council during the recent virtual town hall meeting about the continuing confusion surrounding parking permits along beach roads, stemming from her discovery that parking in the 5th Concession had been reduced to eight spots from roughly double that amount last year and even more in previous years.
According to Vautour, discussion within the popular Facebook group “Beach Rights” had locals unsure of the decision-making processes which seemed to give preference to non-residents over residents.
Vautour launched into a series of questions to council regarding the consultation process with residents, awareness campaigns, and the criteria used in determining how many parking spaces to restrict along with how many permits to sell.
Interspersed with the queries were anecdotes of the inability to find parking spaces along the 5th Concession despite having purchased a permit, a common experience said to be shared by many in the Beach Rights group throughout the area.
The questions were a followup to Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma’s update involving bylaw enforcement earlier in the town hall.
“We do have some temporary changes to parking that have been implemented as a result of the pandemic, so we are working with the same strategy as 2020,” Walma stated during council’s announcements. “All paid and meter parking is unavailable, and has been rededicated as permit parking only.”
Walma continued by reminding residents that a ‘two ticket and tow’ program remains in operation.
“Additionally, at some of our beach parks we have also removed parking spaces to further reduce beach gatherings, and we are reevaluating that on a continuous basis,” Walma added.
CAO Robert Lamb explained that the municipality is following guidance provided by the province as well as Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) when making these kinds of decisions.
“When we reimposed our parking restrictions this year,” stated Lamb, “(those decisions) were based on the two combinations of the stay-at-home order… and also the request from the SMDHU to return our ‘any-parking’ restriction back to what they were during the crisis of last year when it (the pandemic) first started.”
Vautour expressed appreciation to council following the reasoning behind the decisions, taking time to chide council while acknowledging her own misunderstanding of the process.
“I know that if it feels like we are manufacturing a restriction,” said Vautour, “that there is a sense of the Haves and the Have-Nots, and I really don’t want that culture to come to Tiny. I think it’s very unhealthy; that’s how prejudice and exclusivity grows.
“And certainly, my perception was not the reality that you communicated to me today,” Vautour admitted with a suggestion for the township to send out an information package to residents and non-residents that parking decisions were based on weekly reviews of SMDHU guidelines and recommendations.
Mayor George Cornell agreed with Vautour’s assessment of perception, and restated council’s commitment for clarity when it comes to the issue of the beaches.
“You are very much correct that perception can become reality, and that’s what we need to clarify. We have municipally-owned beaches, we invest a significant amount of money into maintaining and protecting those beaches for the use of the public, and that’s what we want to continue to do.”
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca