In the wake of crowded beaches featuring large groups of people and lineups at civic boat launches despite COVID-19 restrictions, the city is cracking down on out-of-town visitors.
As of next weekend (July 10), visitors to the Sunshine City will have to pay $50 to park in lots near local beaches.
On top of that out-of-towners who want to launch their boats at civic boat launches will have to pay an additional $50 to put their vessels in the water from Thursdays through Sundays for the rest of the summer.
City residents will be allowed to park for free and will be permitted to launch their boats for free once they pick up a resident parking permit.
Staff was also asked to look into creating a designated non-resident parking lot at both Tudhope Park and Couchiching Beach Park.
In addition, parking in various downtown lots will now be limited to two hours. Previously, there was a five-hour limit.
And, only residents will be allowed to park on side streets around beach areas.
Staff hopes to have all the regulations in place by next Thursday in time for next weekend.
Mayor Steve Clarke and all of city council, following a special two-hour virtual council meeting dedicated to the issue Thursday, endorsed the plan.
However, there was a lot of discussion about the problems that have surfaced since the hot weather appeared and many expressed concerns about balancing solutions while continuing to be an inclusive, welcoming community.
While there were differing opinions about the level of fines and the level of enforcement, all of council agreed it was time to act.
“We’ve had an issue at the waterfronts,” said Clarke, noting Orillia is “a very desirable place to visit” especially for those experiencing cabin fever after months of self-isolation.
“It has certainly caused some issues,” said the mayor, noting the vast majority of residents and visitors have been adhering to public health guidelines meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“But many have not been compliant,” he said.
Coun. Mason Ainsworth thought the $50 fee was too high, but he supported the plan. He stressed that whatever strategy is employed, the most important element of any plan is enforcement.
“The big issue, at the end of day, is enforcement,” Ainsworth stressed, noting whether it’s physical distancing or littering, enforcement is key.
“Whether you are from Orillia or outside Orillia, it’s an enforcement issue … we need to put money toward enforcement,” said Ainsworth.
Coun. Ted Emond agreed.
“All of this will only work if, in the near term, we enforce,” said Emond. “We have to make sure people get the message we’re serious about this. It’s not good enough to just pass legislation.”
The plan approved by council includes the hiring of another municipal bylaw enforcement officer that will join the current corps of four full-timers and a part-timer that is about to be hired.
Clarke agreed enforcement and communication will be key.
“It’s about behaviour and the volume of people we are getting,” said the mayor.
Shawn Crawford, the city’s manager of legislative services, said the new hire will be adequate to address the issue.
He also publicly warned people about the cost of not complying with provincial and municipal regulations.
Over the past few months, bylaw officers have been, essentially, educating people about the ‘new’ rules and restrictions.
“We’re sort of past that stage now and transferred into a zero tolerance approach,” said Crawford.
“If we see groups of more than 10, they’re going to be charged,” he said. “We’re at that point now.”
There is a set $750 fine for those who violate the provincial order - such as a public gathering of more than 10 people.
The city is also planning on working overtime to get the message out. That’s not an easy task as the message needs to get to not only residents but out-of-town visitors.
“Communication and marketing are a huge part” of the plan, said Jennifer Ruff, who heads up communications for the city.
“We are working on a robust, multi-faceted communications plan.”
City CAO Gayle Jackson said city employees may be brought back to work and could be redeployed from other departments to help carry out the many elements of the plan.
Not only will a new bylaw officer have to be hired and trained, someone will need to be recruited to staff the boat launch from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. four days a week.
While it won’t be easy to implement and it comes with a cost, Jackson said it’s better than the alternative.
She said this has become “a significant safety issue. If we can’t get controls around the waterfront, around waterfront beach areas and launches” they would have to be closed as they were a few weeks ago, she said.
Some councillors expressed concerns about people parking on Highway 12 if restrictions are put in place at Tudhope Park.
Jackson said she would liaise with the provincial Ministry of Transportation to get permission to tow vehicles that try to get around the restrictions by parking on the highway.
Staff said they would be working to address other potential issues as they work through implementation and logistics in the coming days.
Jackson said locations and hours for resident passes will be announced publicly soon.
Meanwhile, staff will also work on a more long-term strategy for council to consider in the fall/winter.
Here’s the plan as approved by council.
City Council supports the short-term waterfront parking/boat launch strategy as follows:
The following parking lots be available for free for residents and $50 (debit or credit only)/day for non-residents only:
Couchiching Beach Park
- Terry Fox Circle Parking Lot
- Greenhouse Parking Lot Centennial Park
- Centennial Boat Launch Parking Lot
- Waterfront Centre Parking Lot Veterans’ Memorial Park
- Veterans’ Memorial Park Parking Lot
J.B. Tudhope Memorial Park
- Tudhope Park Parking Lot
- Barnfield Point Recreation Centre Parking Lot
- Jerry Udell Parking Lot
Municipal Lots 8 and 12.
A resident parking pass will be provided to City of Orillia residents. The pass will be provided upon proof of residency (i.e. driver’s licence/tax bill) and will be linked to a vehicle licence plate. Residents will be able to pick up their passes at convenient locations.
Staff will identify the areas and a communication plan will be implemented to ensure residents know when and where they can obtain their passes. Worth noting is the passes will expire Sept. 30, 2020.
Non-residents will be required to pay $50 (debit or credit only) at the entrance of each lot and will be provided with a ticket as a receipt for payment.
If non-residents wish to park in the BIA area, they will be subjected to a two-hour maximum. The time limits in Parking Lots 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, will be reduced from five hours to two hours, and lots 4, 6, 10, and will be reduced from eight hours to two hours.
Streets surrounding the waterfront areas will be available for resident parking only. Where signs to the effect are displayed, a designated resident permit parking only area on streets surrounding the waterfront areas will be established.
Boat Launch Areas (Collins Drive and Couchiching Beach Park Boat Launch)
- Free for residents - $50 (debit or credit only) per launch for non-residents – Thursday – Sunday from July 8 to Sept. 13, and on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020.
- Launches will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- A resident parking pass will be required in order to launch a boat for free.
- Private property owners that open their property to enable parking whether at no cost or for commercial purposes will have to be zoned appropriately.
- Issuance of tickets for gatherings of more than 10 as mandated by the Province and failure to physical distance as recommended by public health officials and as mandated by the City’s Emergency Measures By-Law.
- Issuance of parking tickets and vehicle removal.
- One additional municipal law enforcement officer will be hired.
Staff will contemplate designated parking lots for non-residents for both Couchiching Beach Park and Tudhope Park.
According to a report to council, wherever possible, City staff will be redeployed to focus efforts on this initiative. Where deployment is not possible, shortterm hiring will occur.
Resource costs are unknown at this time. Marketing, communication, signs and permit printing will be estimated at $20,000, the purchase of tent/booths, $2,000 and telecommunications/point of sale machines will be $5,000. There will be fine, parking and launch revenue as a result of this initiative; however, it is too difficult to estimate at this time.