City council is hoping a new approach to its waterfront parking program will appease residents of neighbouring municipalities.
Council had previously asked Chippewas of Rama First Nation and the townships of Oro-Medonte, Ramara and Severn to pay the equivalent of 50 cents per resident to allow them to park in certain areas of Orillia. All three townships turned that down, while Rama accepted it.
During Monday’s meeting, council decided to implement a $50 seasonal pass for residents of those municipalities to allow them to access waterfront parking and the boat launch. It is contingent on their municipalities issuing and administering the passes and remitting the $50 fee to the city.
Mayor Steve Clarke, who introduced the motion, hopes it will be an easier pill to swallow than the $50 per day all non-residents were charged in 2020.
“From Day 1, health and safety of our community has been the No. 1 consideration,” he said, noting the overcrowding of waterfront parks in 2020 was an issue, along with “some very poor behaviour, reckless behaviour” exhibited by some of the park users.
As a result, the waterfront parking program was implemented as a way to control the numbers and deter people from visiting from out of town.
“At that time, it was really hard to imagine that, a year later, we would be in a similar situation,” Clarke said.
During a meeting with the townships’ mayors and Rama’s chief regarding potential options, “they explained their concerns, and I certainly explained our council’s desire to strike a meaningful compromise,” he said.
He also told them the waterfront parking program comes with an initial cost of about $100,000 and that the city was hoping for some sort of financial contribution from their municipalities.
Clarke feels the $50 seasonal pass is fair. He noted Barrie is charging its neighbours $90 for a pass and Collingwood is charging $100.
Coun. Jay Fallis raised a concern about advertising the city’s waterfront parking program in places such as the Greater Toronto Area, which was done last year.
”It does seem kind of counterproductive to me to be advertising in the GTA that we’ve got a parking program where we’re charging people,” he said, adding adequate signage at the waterfront should be enough.
The goal of advertising the program is to reach people before they arrive in Orillia, and it was “effective” in deterring people last year, said Jennifer Ruff, the city’s director of business development and communications.
If they aren’t made aware of the program before they arrive, they might look for other places to park, she added.
Council unanimously approved the new measures Monday.
Rama is being asked to proceed with the 50-cents-per-resident contribution “if desired.”