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Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Friends of Ryerson Park ask council for big changes

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake will look at solutions to problems with excess traffic and parking in Chautauqua.

In the meantime, councillors have asked staff to report back with a temporary solution by April, to help curb traffic during the 2021 season.

The decision was in response to concerns from a resident group called Friends of Ryerson Park. The group was formed in 2020 to tackle the traffic issues it says have been increasing for years and to preserve the “integrity of the unique Chautauqua neighbourhood.”

The group says it has support from 300 Chautauqua residents from 146 households — out of 195 total households in the area, along Lake Ontario in the western end of Old Town.

Chautauqua resident John Scott presented the group's report of concerns to councillors Monday.

Among the long list of issues were that Chautauqua's short, narrow streets are being blocked by an influx in parked cars, creating a potential hazard for  emergency vehicles, that people are parking illegally around Ryerson Park, and that a growing interest in the park — in part due to social media and short-term rentals — is attracting more visitors than the small park can handle.

The park, which has a small strip of beach, does not have public bathrooms or changing rooms, Scott pointed out, adding there have been several concerns from residents about public urination, barbecues, nudity and garbage in the park.

The report said in once case a person entered someone's private home without permission to ask to use the washroom.

Other issues included noise from motorcycles and sports cars, “loud noise and partying” and drinking on the beach.

“Visitors often monopolize the picnic tables and benches, sometimes for hours on end. On the grass, there is sometimes very little area to stand, particularly at sunset and in compliance with social distancing. The sheer numbers of visitors outweigh the number of residents,” the report said.

Scott suggested a list of eight potential solutions, including signage to redirect traffic from Queen Street and encourage traffic to turn left at Mississagua Street to stop cars from unintentionally ending up in Chautauqua, limiting streetside parking in the neighbourhood to residents only, increasing fines for parking illegally to $100,and having more signage and enforcement of the town's bylaws.

Other solutions included making the bend at the end of Shakespeare Avenue a no-stop, tow-away zone, enforcing no motorized vehicles in the park and closing the park at 10 p.m.

He said the Friends of Ryerson Park would also work with the NOTL Chamber of Commerce to develop a communications strategy to clarify “misstatements” on social media sites like TripAdvisor and short-term rental listings.

Coun. Erwin Wiens expressed concerns about some of the group's requests, saying he and his family often visit the park and that “frankly” he felt the group was saying residents like him aren't welcome.

Council asked that staff report back on “fair and equitable” solution for all Niagara-on-the-Lake residents.