Sunset Point parking

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Sunset Point parking

Sunset Point Park is easily Collingwood’s most popular park and for good reason: it’s a wonderful resource and a great place to spend an afternoon. Summer weekends it’s always full of families, couples, pets and picnics. You’ll see swimmers, kite flyers, cyclists, sunbathers, strollers, anglers and hibachis everywhere. People come from miles around – even many from the GTA – to spend the day in Collingwood’s Sunset Point Park.

And with that comes the problem: parking. People drive here and their cars have to go somewhere. The small lots fill quickly and then overflow onto the nearby side streets.

The park is so popular and so often full that locals know not to drive there on warm weekends because the parking spaces fill up early. We get there by walking or cycling – or we head to less-popular spots. The past two weekends alone, we turned around and left when we couldn’t find a space to park (our dog likes to swim in the warm, shallow water of the bay, so we went elsewhere).

Traffic in the quiet residential area around the park becomes busy – even hectic – as visitors jockey for the few street spaces nearby or rove around hoping someone in the park will pack up and leave. Buses empty their passengers, then drive off to await in some more distant parking lot to return at pick-up time.

The image above (map from Google Earth) shows the existing public parking spaces marked with yellow lines. Not many spaces for such a popular park. And there really isn’t much if any space nearby to use for more parking. Besides, no one would be happy if the town sacrificed our precious greenspace for parking.

Right now, all parking there is free. But is that appropriate?

No one pays to use the park, either – which is how parks should all be. Yet parks require maintenance. Litter must be removed, bins emptied, grass cut, sidewalks and roads mended… and you, the taxpayer, pays for it all.

I don’t want to discourage visitors – after all, they are likely to spend money in local stores and restaurants, and thus help our local economy – but as a small town, we have to consider our expenses carefully.

Maybe we should consider making the parking spaces in this area into paid parking to help cover the cost of park maintenance.

To do that, we have to consider the various costs: installing parking meters, painting parking space lines, and, of course, bylaw enforcement. None of it is any good unless we enforce it. And we must maintain the meters and parking lots. We’d have to pave the eastern lot, too.

I’ve sent off some questions for staff about parking and enforcement in that area that I’ll share here later when I get a response. I also drove around the area for an hour, looking at it from the street level, trying to assess the potential options.

Finding a parking space, as you can see by the photo on the left, is not often a worry during the week (this photo was taken on a Thursday) when there is ample parking for all visitors. It’s mostly a summer weekend problem.

There’s a cost involved in going from free to paid parking. I don’t know what the total is, but I think we should explore the options, get some estimates and ask for ideas about how we can best manage the area’s traffic and parking challenges.

If Sunset Point continues to be popular – and I suspect it will only grow more so in the future – the town needs to have some serious discussions about its future. That means engaging the residents in the area, too, and getting their ideas and comments, because it affects them most.

I lean towards paid parking for the weekends between Victoria Day and Labour Day if it will eventually return more money than it costs to install and enforce. However, because of the looming financial crisis caused by reckless spending this term, I hesitate to suggest we go ahead until we’ve seen the fiscal projections for the next few years and figure out what we can afford.

I’d also consider giving residents free parking stickers for the area because we already pay for the park’s upgrades and maintenance through our taxes. But that’s all part of the discussion we can have when I, as your next deputy mayor, bring it up at the table next term.

Once again, this is an issue that should be part of a public dialogue. We need to hear from residents – and not just those in the immediate area, but from people from all around town who like to use the park.

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