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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Traffic, safety biggest concerns near Ryerson Park, survey finds

A town survey about problems around Ryerson Park revealed residents are concerned chiefly with crowded on-street parking, increased traffic and fears about pedestrian safety.

Friends of Ryerson Park spokesperson Brian Crow was pleased with the number of people who responded, telling The Lake Report it demonstrates “that there’s interest in the problems here.”

Respondents included Niagara-on-the-Lake residents, residents of the Chautauqua area, and people who work in NOTL or who have family here.

The top issues identified included an overflow of traffic in the area, increased street parking affecting the neighbourhood, overcrowding in the park and  pedestrian safety.

48.3 per cent of all respondents said that they visit the park very often, while 48.2 per cent said that they have decreased their visits to the park recently. Roughly 30 per cent of respondents said that their decreased use of the park was due to overcrowding.

With 402 responses, the online survey attracted more participants than any previous poll, the town reported. The average response rate to other surveys was 111.

Half the respondents, 201, said they lived outside the Chautauqua neighbourhood, while 186 said they lived there.

The Friends of Ryerson Park group has been vocal since last year about issues near the park and its January delegation to council prompted the town's survey.

The group has cited the influx of cars parked on side streets as a safety hazard that would prevent emergency vehicles from accessing the area.

The park’s most popular features for respondents were the view and access to Lake Ontario for swimming.

“It’s a victim of its own beauty,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero told The Lake Report.

The increased popularity of the park was pinpointed by the survey to have occurred starting four or five years ago, with some respondents feeling that the pandemic has furthered the park's popularity as more people search for outdoor activities that are not shut down.

Disero pointed out that the much-larger Niagara Shores Park, just west of Ryerson, was closed to vehicle traffic four or five years ago, due to “people going in there and doing wheelies, and other things they shouldn’t have done.”

She hopes that, by working with Parks Canada, which owns Niagara Shores, that facility can be reopened and some of the crowds at Ryerson Park will move over there.

“If that comes to fruition that will open up a whole large new landscape for people to go out and look at sunsets. We’re trying to find a balance for Ryerson Park,” Disero said.

“I’m really hopeful people will get to see Niagara Shores. It’s just amazing. The sunsets are the same sunsets, and there’s a beach so people can go down and dip their feet in the water.”

Niagara Shores is still open for foot traffic, but the lack of parking has made the park less popular than its smaller counterpart.

Websites promoting Ryerson Park as a good spot to visit in NOTL were also blamed for attracting crowds to the park.

Over 49 per cent of respondents felt increased use of the park has resulted in significant negative impacts to the area.

The number one negative impact as highlighted by the survey was on-street parking, with 302 people saying this was the worst issue happening in the area.

The survey presented three options to deal with street parking in the area. The third option – with no parking on either side of the area's streets – was the most popular. A permit system would allow NOTL residents guests to park on the streets.

Crow expressed no worry for Chautauqua residents getting ticketed if a permit system was implemented and was excited about the popularity of the option.

“We’re really pleased the majority of the people voted for the third option when it comes to parking,” Crow said in an interview.

However, he is not sure that option is what councillors will vote for.

“We have to wait for the staff report to council. We hope that council will approve it. But it’s not a done deal,” he said.

Among Chautauqua residents the issue of overcrowding in the park was not among the top three concerns. Chautauqua residents felt that a bigger issue was pedestrian safety in the area.

“Because we live here. A lot of Chautauqua residents are the ones that walk to the park,” Crow said.

Compounding the problem of crowded street parking is the width of the streets themselves, many only about 13 feet wide.

“They are legally a laneway, not a street, and there are cars parking on both sides. There’s no sidewalk, no curbs, even people that ride bikes are concerned,” Crow said.

He said the main stressor for families in the area is having their kids outside on unsafe streets.

Crow emphasized the group is not trying to exclude anyone, despite some criticism to that effect. It's about safety, he said.

“If you look at the Shaw theatre, as one example, they have a parking lot. When the parking lot gets full, they put up a sign that says you can’t enter. It’s full. That doesn’t mean they’re anti-tourist,” he said.

“Our problem down here is street capacity. The infrastructure can’t take the number of cars, whether parking or driving, that are coming through. So, it’s not anti-tourist, it’s not anti-anybody. We’re just at capacity.”

The Friends are also trying to get a sign installed along Queen Street to redirect traffic to the Queen Elizabeth Way and are pursuing the installation of speed bumps to slow down traffic.

Those options are still under review, according to Disero.

“We won’t know what staff are recommending until the report comes to council,” she said.

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