Terry Fox Circle will be closed to vehicular traffic.
In a 5-4 vote Monday, city council supported a staff recommendation that will prohibit vehicular access to Terry Fox Circle at Couchiching Beach Park and create a new, smaller circular drop-off area for vehicles near the southern part of the circle.
Council committee deferred a decision on the matter last month to allow residents more time to share their views with council members. That feedback, as well as a visit to the site by council members and city staff, swayed the opinions of some decision makers, including Coun. Jay Fallis.
He was initially in favour of Option 2, which would have seen vehicles allowed to drive along a Terry Fox Circle that would be reduced in size.
“I certainly respect the fact that there’s a lot of people wanting to maintain the Terry Fox Circle,” he said before apologizing to some councillors for “dashing a lot of their hopes in terms of maintaining that.”
He acknowledged the history and uniqueness of the feature but said the issue of safety is what made him change his mind.
While there are no examples of serious accidents involving vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, “there is that potential,” Fallis said.
Coun. Mason Ainsworth shared that concern. He noted a number of staff reports have identified it as a safety issue and that it could come back to bite the city and council members should something happen later.
“In the future, it’s not a matter of if something will happen, it’s a matter of when,” he said.
Safety was top of mind for Coun. Ted Emond, too, who said he wanted to choose an option that eliminates the risk.
“I, personally, in good conscience … cannot go forward with a solution which doesn’t do that,” he said.
“I’m making a decision based on the future … not on a nostalgic craving for a time long ago.”
That comment was in response to those made by some other councillors, including Ralph Cipolla, Pat Hehn and Rob Kloostra, who have made note of the history of the circle.
“I don’t support what Ted is saying at all,” Cipolla said, adding he was “making a decision here for the citizens of this community that live here now and will be for the next 10, 15 years.”
At first, Cipolla wanted the circle to remain as is, but he said he was willing to support Option 2, provided some parking spots, including accessible ones, could be worked into the design.
Hehn was on the same page. While she wanted to see Terry Fox Circle stay the way it is, she knew there wasn’t enough support among council, so she was willing to support Option 2.
“I believe in compromise and I think that all my colleagues would agree that I have compromised on many issues so we could get things passed,” she said.
Mayor Steve Clark said Option 1 “is that compromise.”
“I believe it still maintains the historic nature of the circle, even if it isn’t for the vehicles, but for pedestrians,” he said.
There will still be access for emergency vehicles and city parks staff, which led Ainsworth to suggest the area could be opened to vehicles for special events or on specific days of the week.
Ultimately, staff were directed to start the detailed design process for Option 1. Voting in favour were Coun. David Campbell, Ainsworth, Clarke, Emond and Fallis. Voting against were Cipolla, Hehn, Kloostra and Lauer.