At one of its meetings this month, town council will receive and make decisions on the staff recommendations developed in response to the Jan. 18, 2021 submission to the committee of the whole by the Friends of Ryerson Park.
Since our presentation to council there have been countless inaccurate letters and columns as well as comments at council meetings and from town staff as to both the content and intent of our remedies to relieve the traffic congestion and safety issues in the unique Chautauqua residential area. This article has been written to set the record straight.
The Friends of Ryerson Park is a very active and growing grassroots community group comprised of 204 households including over 350 residents. The majority of the Friends live in Chautauqua but our numbers do boast a number of residents from elsewhere in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We are in regular communication by way of social media, teleconferences and on-line visual group discussions. Our expanding group is united in its concerns and in full support of the reasonable remedies that have been presented to council.
Chautauqua is a residential area with no public or commercial services. We are fully supportive of visitors and any suggestion to the contrary is an absolute misrepresentation of anything the Friends have ever said or done. Our objective is to develop a healthy balance of usage between visitors and residents. Any balance has been significantly skewed over the past several years as the number of visitors using short-term rentals together with an excessive amount of vehicular traffic, has resulted in very large numbers of people crowding an extremely small community park. You can imagine the issues created by disrespectful drivers: souped-up vehicles and illegal open-pipe motorcycles (causing massive noise pollution); quick acceleration; limited parking on narrow streets (that are really lanes); pedestrian safety in an area with no sidewalks; and excessive garbage of every description. Effective mitigation of these growing problems is essential.
Last August we came together as the Friends of Ryerson Park, documented the critical issues, and then developed a list of positive remedies. In October we presented the concepts to town staff and quickly learned what might be possible. We pared down the list and met individually with each councillor. Taking the advice from all discussions, the Friends then developed the remedies presented in January.
There is a clear rationale to each of the proposed remedial provisions. All nine remedies can be implemented quickly. None are new, but each has been used effectively in other communities. No, they won’t totally solve the problems, but they will most certainly serve to be effective in mitigation. Here are two examples:
Limit parking on all streets in Chautauqua to NOTL residents only (and then only on one side). This is designed to help with that rebalance of residential and visitor use, and minimize delays for emergency service vehicles. Based on our calculations and because of one-hour visitor parking in the layby, together with the large volume of short-term rental users, visitor numbers would be reduced to 300 per day. By any measure, that, plus residents, is a large volume of people for a small municipal park.
Reduce the speed limit on all roads to 35 kilometres per hour. The town’s guidance is that the current limit of 50 kph is adequate (which allows up to 60 kph before a fine). Of course, no one can possibly drive at 60 kph — the roads are too narrow. But if the limit is dropped to 35 kph (or even 40 kph) the upper limit would also drop. Slowing down vehicles would be so helpful in encouraging safety and abating noise pollution.
Based on the careful development of these sensible provisions, the majority of residents in the Chautauqua area, together with those along Niagara Boulevard (as represented by the Friends of Ryerson Park), have a very reasonable expectation that they will be fully adopted by a responsive town council.
Brian Crow, Shaun Devlin, John Scott, on behalf of the
Friends of Ryerson Park