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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Letter of the Week: Kayakers still need easy access to Balls Beach
Letter writer Frances Boot says the two-metre drop from the dock near River Beach Drive to the water for kayaks is an accessibility problem for seniors. SUPPLIED

Dear editor:

Despite pressure from locals and a well-written article last year in The Lake Report by Somer Slobodian (“Kayakers are feeling pushed out of Balls Beach,” July 19), kayakers still have no answers as to why the Balls Beach parkette and street parking were taken away from them.

The town has launched a proposal to reinvent the town dock near River Beach Drive.

But it feels like the town is diverting attention away from the fact that public access for small watercraft was stealthily removed with not a ripple of warning or discussion to the kayakers who use it.

In a lovely town such as ours, with such a high senior population, one would think it would be wise to keep seniors active and engaged.

Since 2018 a group of kayakers has been in public discussions with the town.

We never asked for a launching dock in the Balls Beach area as the town is now proposing.

The nearly two-metre drop from the dock to the water that a kayaker has to conquer will likely eliminate access to seniors who are not strong enough to manoeuvre through it.

I imagine this impractical height is part of the reason the proposed dock launching ramp came with an $80,000 price tag.

Note that the 2018 final draft of the dock area secondary plan said the site plan was to include easy access to Balls Beach, but the reality is that it is still not easily accessible.

All we need is relatively calm water and a gentle slope to walk in, which historically we always had at Balls Beach.

The west end of River Beach Drive previously had on-street parking and now has a temporary “no parking” sign in front of the house at #90. Why?

When the park was hydro-seeded after restoration work, an area near the willow tree had gravel parking for three or four vehicles.

An adjacent property owner intervened with the town workers and the gravel was removed and replaced with soil and grass seed.

The parking area near the willow tree was never a safety concern until River Beach Drive neighbours expressed a concern.

There was never a formal study to declare it a safety concern.

There used to be a parking area in that spot and it could still be implemented as parking for locals with a permit.

Kayaks and canoes can weigh from 35 to 65 pounds and the present drop-off arrangements do not coincide with the dock area plan for easy accessibility.

Please don’t tell me to look forward to the recently promised dock at River Beach Park.

There is no stop sign at the 90-degree bend in the road where water enthusiasts would be crossing from the municipal parking lot.

There is also a huge 1.5- to 2-metre elevation drop from grass level to water level. I cannot see how that distance could be easily engineered or managed even with a floating dock or ramp, although maybe that’s why the dock is projected to cost $80,000.

There is also a strong water current and lots turbulence in that area, especially compared to the safety of the small harbour that has been created at Balls Beach.

We are asking for our parking to be reinstated under the old willow at Balls Beach and along the south side of the west end of River Beach Drive.

Some suggestions for discussion:

Perhaps “Local Permit Parking Only” might help.

One could also review land ownership; it would be interesting to see how much the driveways and gardens of the homes on the north side of River Beach Drive are actually encroaching on the public road allowance.

Angle parking for permit holders and property owners might be a solution there or perhaps use the Ball Street north-south road allowance and make a one-way loop using Turntable Way and River Beach Drive.

Clearly there are options and they should be discussed as a community, not controlled by the squeakiest wheels.

Our efforts should be to keep Niagara-on-the-Lake an active and dynamic place, including accessible waterfronts for everyone of all physical abilities.

I look forward to receiving the support that was promised.

Frances Boot
NOTL

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