Ryerson Park is suffering from overuse, too much traffic and several other associated issues it would like the town to address.
John Scott spoke to councillors Monday night about the growing number of problems in this unique neighbourhood, and asked for a number of solutions before tourists begin to return in increasing numbers.
The Friends of Ryerson Park, a group of residents advocating for change, has developed what it calls “reasonable and positive remedies” for the town’s consideration, some recently updated to reflect changes made after consultation with town staff, councillors and other residents, says Scott.
He described the Chautauqua neighbourhood as a special area of town with many unique characteristics, including narrow streets that are really lanes, no sidewalks, many cottage-style residences “and a truly different street layout.” The residential neighbourhood doesn’t have public facilities or nearby commercial outlets as other town parks hosting visitors, he says.
Unlike other NOTL parks, Ryerson has no services, is completely within a residential area, and has limited capacity with respect to both the park and street infrastructure.
The Friends group now has the support of 146 households in the immediate park area, for a total of 195 in the Old Town, and all residents are “extremely concerned” about the intensity of the issues of safety, traffic flow and park overcapacity. All are fully supportive of his requests to council, Scott says.
The problems he detailed were exasperated by the pandemic last season, but they have been increasing for a number of years, and have now reached the point where very few residents feel comfortable using the park.
“I underscore that we are in total disagreement with those who have suggested that the problems experienced last summer were only as a direct result of the societal changes dictated by COVID-19 protocols. We know that these problems will intensify once restrictions have been lifted and both the U.S. border and Shaw Festival have resumed normal operations. Accordingly, our community requires immediate, firm and positive action to both mitigate and minimize several serious issues.”
He also spoke of the advertising on social media, including sites such as Trip Advisor and those promoting short-term rentals and bed and breakfasts, which tout the park as a beach and swimming area with full services, giving misinformation about what is available.
His specific requests to council included: restrict parking on all Chautauqua streets to only NOTL residents, and even then to one side only, with one household pass for visitors; increase fines for bylaw infractions to at least $100; reduce the speed limit on all streets in Chautauqua to 35 km/hr; close the park at 10 p.m.; install clear signage of the lack of facilities, as well as unpermitted uses, including no fires, barbeques or tents; redevelop directional signs at the Queen/Missisagua Street intersection to encourage visitors to make a left turn toward the QEW; establish a no stopping/tow away zone at the hairpin turn at Shakespeare Ave. and Niagara Blvd; ensure bylaw officers are equipped with clear information about infractions in Chautauqua area and enforce them; and that the Town be innovative with signage to maintain the aesthetics of the community.
Scott said the residents’ group has been meeting with town staff to discuss a report prepared by the group in the fall, and has modified their requests in response to staff comments, stressing the group wants to work with the town on solutions.
After a brief discussion about the need to thoroughly investigate the group’s requests to be sure the town has sufficient data to make good decisions, council approved a motion by Lord Mayor Betty Disero to look at some temporary measures that could be implemented for the coming tourist season, and have staff report back to council for consideration of long-term, permanent resolutions to the Friend’s concerns that are fair and equitable to all residents.
To the question of incorrect information and promotion of the park on social media, council agreed to ask the NOTL Chamber of Commerce help solve that problem.