Some city councillors aren’t ready to hit the brakes on vehicular traffic in Terry Fox Circle.
The waterfront parkland design study included a recommendation to pedestrianize Terry Fox Circle in Couchiching Beach Park.
At its meeting Monday, council committee directed staff to report back with three design options. Coun. Ralph Cipolla wanted that report to include one option that the area remain open to traffic, with accessible parking spaces and a designated drop-off location close to the beach.
He introduced an amendment to that effect, and it was supported by colleagues, including Coun. Rob Kloostra.
“Closing down the circle completely to vehicular traffic is certainly not an option in my (opinion),” Kloostra said.
Coun. Pat Hehn was emotional as she recalled various memories of visiting the park and Terry Fox Circle over the years.
As she thought about the issue prior to Monday’s meeting, she said, “memory after memory came flooding back” — being pushed on a swing by a boyfriend, visiting the area with her kids, “driving around the circle hundreds of times in three seasons out of four.”
She said seniors enjoy being able to drive through the area and, with 39 per cent of Orillia’s residents being 55 or older, “if we’re going to be building a park for our future, we need to think about seniors.”
Coun. Ted Emond did not support Cipolla’s amendment.
“Unlike Coun. Hehn, I don’t focus my entire life on my past,” he said.
“Just because we’ve done it that way for 50 years doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do it for another 50 years.”
With two playgrounds and a public beach in the area, children are “at extreme risk,” Emond said.
“It would be inappropriate for us to not be concerned about those children and about the conflict that is occurring between vehicles and pedestrians in that park.”
Responding to Hehn’s comment about the number of seniors in town, Emond said he suspects a demographic shift is underway that will lead to an “ever-rising number of young people in our community.”
Coun. David Campbell also wants to see vehicular traffic gone from Terry Fox Circle.
He said he heard numerous concerns about safety during his six years with the city’s active transportation committee.
“It’s simply not safe,” he said. “I understand the nostalgia … but times have changed.”
Mayor Steve Clarke said it would be “very unlikely” that he would support allowing vehicles in Terry Fox Circle, but he was in favour of Cipolla’s amendment.
“I do believe a lot of the things that go on there are incompatible and there are safety issues,” Clarke said.
It’s important to consider public opinion, he added, referring to earlier consultation that showed 70 per cent of respondents wanted vehicles gone from Terry Fox Circle.