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May. 17, 2021 | Monday
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Town allows propane barbecues in three parks
Visitors gather in Queen's Royal Park. (File)

Evan Saunders
The Lake Report

Propane barbecues will be allowed in three of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s parks after an outright ban of them sparked a community backlash – but some councillors feel that a prohibition on barbecues in any parks is exclusionary.  

An amendment to the month-old park's bylaw was passed by council Monday allowing propane barbecues to be used in Centennial Park in Virgil, St. Davids Lions Park and Memorial Park in Old Town.  

The decision to allow propane barbecues in only three parks is “based on the sizes and different characteristics of our parks, and after consultation with our staff,” Coun. Sandra O’Connor told council.  

“We have some small parks or parkettes with minimal facilities," she said.

A further amendment by Lord Mayor Betty Disero that would allow town staff to add other parks to the list will be debated at the next meeting.

O’Connor told The Lake Report she thinks more parks will be added provided people barbecue responsibly.

Small propane barbecues are seen as a minor fire risk as opposed to charcoal barbecues, which remain banned under the new bylaw.  

“The problem with coal is that the heat stays in coal for such a long time. Normally people are leaving the park before the coal has cooled down. As a result, where do you dispose of them? You can’t put them in the garbage, cause that would start a fire. It’s a safety factor,” O’Connor said in an interview Tuesday. 

Since there already has been a lot of debate on the idea of barbecues in parks, some councillors were curious what initiated the amendment. 

“Is this as a result of feedback that we were receiving through various channels?” Coun. Allan Bisback asked. “I’m just wondering what drove the decision.” 

“I did hear feedback from various people with regards to that,” O’Connor said. 

O'Connor said it was based on "feedback from various people."

“Some from when I was at the agricultural committee, asking ‘Why was this done?’ As well as other feedback from residents.” 

But the decision, though popular with councillors, wasn’t enough for Coun. Erwin Wiens.  

After decades of allowing families to have barbecues in NOTL’s parks, only allowing three parks to continue is an exclusionary policy for families who can’t afford to only shop and dine out in NOTL, Wiens said. 

“I am somewhat troubled by this, but in a larger picture,” he said. "The only problem that’s ever come up with any of our parks over time has been coals, leaving behind coals. There’s never been an issue with people having (propane) barbecues in parks.” 

Wiens framed the issue as one of wealthy, privileged members of NOTL’s community acting as if the parks are solely for them.

He said parks are an essential public space and his impassioned speech convinced fellow councillors Allan Bisback and Wendy Cheropita to abstain from the vote, a route that Wiens took himself. 

“If I voted against this motion then what would happen is (it would look like) I’m not in favour of barbecues. That’s not true. But if I vote for it, as a compromise, that means that I’m compromising my principles and I won’t do that,” Wiens told councillors.  

The three abstained votes were marked as "no's" by the town and council approved allowing propane barbecues in the three parks.

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