Morrisburg’s waterfront park this past weekend was an unmitigated disaster as beaches were closed, yet a multitude of visitors and locals still sought to relax by the river. While the problems with crowds and parking in these places have been growing for years, it’s being amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The municipality reacted to overcrowding at the two beaches on Canada Day by restricting the beaches to weekday use only. Sadly, no one told visitors that the amenities were closed on the weekends. Visitors from Ottawa, Kingston, and out of province were greeted by concrete barriers. When one door closes, many others open – namely access to the Morrisburg Waterfront Park. Cars were not just parked under trees for shade, but found parking spots across much of the flat grassland between the ball diamonds and the beach, including the top of the amphitheatre.
There are many places where improvements need to be made immediately, starting with communication. Visitors who arrived here believed the beaches were open because it still showed on Google that they were. People drove and parked wherever they wanted in the park because there is a lack of signage and markings showing where to go. It was a free-for-all and that is unacceptable. The municipality needs to mark where people can go, and post rules and restrictions. Posting one sign by the beach that its closed is not the solution.
Next is parking. Boat trailers are everywhere. Those should be parked by the Legion in the designated lot. Two of the three ball diamonds are not being used this summer since few sports leagues are running this season. Convert these into temporary parking areas with clear signage. Start erecting temporary safety fence along areas where vehicles should not be allowed. It may mean access to areas of the park has to be restricted to non-vehicular use only.
Last is enforcement. South Dundas has a parking bylaw, it has teeth now, use it. Enforce the rules. If the municipality has clearly marked parking areas and people choose to ignore them, ticket or tow them.
Everyone has a role in dealing with this issue including making a few sacrifices of our own with some limits to access. While council, staff, and the waterfront committees work to resolve the issues, citizens can tone down the rhetoric. If visitors and business investors judge South Dundas by some of the inaccurate, and in some cases down-right racist, comments made by some citizens, no one would come here. That would solve the overcrowding problem, but in the worst way possible.