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Apr. 16, 2021 | Friday
Local News
Letter: Draconian new parks bylaw is unfriendly to visitors and residents
Letter.

Dear editor:

I remember, as the youngest son of an immigrant family, having picnics in NOTL parks and along the beautiful Niagara Parkway.

My brothers and I would play catch with a baseball or toss around a football or a Frisbeee. When I became a teenager, I enjoyed the parks with friends and used a hibachi or the park barbecues to whip up some burgers or sausage.

As an adult, with a young family, I introduced my children to the beautiful Niagara River landscape and would end the day with an ice cream cone from one of the many stores in NOTL’s Old Town.

My parents and other family members loved bringing us to this area for picnics and fellowship on weekends. My dad and his friends would play dominoes on a picnic table while mom and the ladies would present us with delicious prepared side dishes and desserts to be enjoyed with food cooked over the barbecue.

I can’t tell you how grateful I was to live in a country with such beautiful vistas and encouraged its visitors and guests to take it all in.

Having a barbecue and a few drinks throughout the day was never looked as being intrusive. I am not condoning drunkenness or rowdy and reckless behaviour. I’m sure that incidents such as these are mitigated by the public complaints to bylaw enforcement and are handled expeditiously.

Are complaints of excessive smoke and a backlash against physical activity overtaxing the bylaw enforcement system already in place? Erecting a small tent or shelter throughout the day to shade young children or older adults from extreme heat or rainfall should not be seen as bylaw infraction. 

As a retiree, I’ve made NOTL my home and have always thought of this area as being "inclusive” and inviting. I walk throughout NOTL and along its majestic trails daily and have not experienced any of the incidents that this bylaw seeks to prevent.

In the absence of extremely dry conditions, small barbecue fires are not a problem. I’m sure that our local fire prevention bureau can tell you that the incidence of out-of-control, unattended barbecue fires don’t justify such punishing actions. 

Thus, my surprise reading that our lord mayor and council had passed a draconian bylaw prohibiting activities that were a staple to enjoying a day out along the Niagara Parkway in my earlier years. If there was a public outcry against such activities I’m sure that most locals would have been aware of it. 

Has the welcome mat been pulled out from under us? Our lord mayor and council must realize, even in these times, that people need to get out into our great outdoors and enjoy the park spaces that are available to us.

Being hassled by bylaws designed to keep visitors and locals from enjoying a day out with their families cannot be what NOTL is all about. Many families do not have the money to enjoy our stellar restaurant district but can still enjoy a day out in the park with their loved ones and all of the other attractions this area has to offer. 

To be frank, it’s not polite to invite visitors and guests to the area only be told to refrain from enjoying yourself in the parks but make sure that you have enough money to spend in Old Town and NOTL’s many wineries. It smacks of being told to “stay off my lawn” but support the local businesses. 

There are bylaw enforcement officers patrolling throughout Niagara’s parks that should be able to monitor and fine drunk and rowdy behaviour when it occurs along with aid from local law enforcement. If more bylaw officers are needed then it’s incumbent on council to find creative ways to hire more of them.

But to enact offensive bylaws that paint all of the picnicking visitors and guests with the same brush as a few rowdy visitors is not fair and robs us all of the wonderful experience that is NOTL.

I urge council to amend or reconsider the enactment of this bylaw and allow visitors, guests and locals to fully enjoy what this historic and "inclusive" area has to offer. I wonder if NOTL’s third “friendliest place in Canada “ ranking will be re-examined after the upcoming tourist season?

Art Thomas
NOTL

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