Committee moves to ban BBQs/tents/large sunshades at waterfront parks and beaches, allowing them at other inland city parks … fines for flouting the restrictions may be beefed up

“Issues that were identified with the use of charcoal appliances include the dumping of hot coals into park waste receptacles, dumping of coals into the lake, and coals left at the site the appliance was used. In addition, concerns have been raised associated with the smoke and odours from the smoke and lighter fluid as these appliances could be set up anywhere in the park.” – staff report


City residents and visitors who flout barbeque and tent/sunshade restrictions at Barrie waterfront parks and beaches could face stiffer fines of $100 to $1,000 after general committee adopted staff recommendations to update the current parks-use bylaw.
The report had recommended beefing up the fines and posting new signs in parks, environmentally protected lands, and open space, following up on council direction from last summer (Aug. 10) to address COVID-related and environmental impacts of allowing such activities to continue.
On Monday at general committee, Ward 9 councillor Sergio Morales’ amendment to allow BBQs at inland parks was passed. Charcoal-fuelled BBQs would be the only ones permitted at the inland parks. Ward 6 councillor Natalie Harris moved a similar amendment for tents, that restrictions apply only to waterfront parks, except for Little Lake. That was also supported by committee. Anything supported by more than one pole would be restricted, however a small tent to protect an infant would not “violate the overall intent” of the bylaw, Tammy Banting, Manager of Enforcement Services, told committee.
The intent, she said, was to ensure clear visibility to the water for safety and other reasons.
“If you are going to your kid’s soccer game, or baseball game, or if you have a pick-up sports game, or even if you just want to spend some time in a neighbourhood park, the intention here was not to ban the sunshades that every soccer family brings along to the game … I think this was over-reaching a little bit,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “The intent was to have something consistent across the parks, but really the only issue here is the waterfront parks and specifically the beaches.”
Specifically, council had asked staff to:
• Investigate the process of and the implications of closing the beach at Wilkins Park due to ongoing environmental damage in this area that is zoned environmental protection and report back to general committee by March 2021.
• Investigate the implications of and the required bylaw changes for making permanent restrictions on the use of personal BBQs, tents and other associated equipment on City beaches, and report back to general committee by March 2021.
• Investigate the feasibility of and the cost to update the Waterfront Strategic Plan (2015) to address emerging trends and the impact of growth on the safe and appropriate access to City beaches, public spaces and parks along the public waterfront and report back to general committee.
The current bylaw was enacted prior to the pandemic, which resulted in a range of ongoing restrictions and concerns, including distancing measures at City parks. Last summer, staff observed COVID-related impacts at City parks, most notably waterfront parks, including:
• A significant increase in visitors to our waterfront parks due to more restrictive COVID-19 regulations applying to the regions to the south of the City where beaches and other waterfront amenities were still closed to the public. This increase resulted in overcrowding of the beaches and waterfront parks with subsequent congregating of people in gatherings larger than what was permitted by COVID-19 regulations at the time.
• The use of barbeques and other cooking appliances resulted in complaints due to smoke and odours by park users and area residents. In addition, staff also noted increased garbage and debris as well as dumping of materials that were still a potential ignition source.
• The use of tents and other large sunshade structures was seen as a direct factor to the overcrowding and congregating. The tents and large sunshade structures were also seen as a public safety concern as they obstructed the view for lifeguard and parents ensuring safety of those in the water. Complaints were also received concerning the nature of activities occurring within the tents including using them as washroom facilities.
The City reacted on July 8 with a temporary order to prohibit barbeques and other cooking items at Wilkins Park and other beach areas. Then on July 25, the City moved to temporarily restrict the use of barbeques and other cooking items, as well as tents, at all waterfront parks, beaches and trails.
It all came with a zero-tolerance mandate to such activities. An earlier plan to install permanent barbeques at Centennial park and other beach areas was halted due to COVID-19, but it is expected the plan will move ahead once the pandemic is over.
“Issues that were identified with the use of charcoal appliances include the dumping of hot coals into park waste receptacles, dumping of coals into the lake, and coals left at the site the appliance was used. In addition, concerns have been raised associated with the smoke and odours from the smoke and lighter fluid as these appliances could be set up anywhere in the park,” reads the report.
“Staff have found that over the years the use of barbeques, both propane and charcoal, in the parks has increased as park usership has changed to more full day visits rather than a short stay and swim. Citizens are utilizing our parks not only as a general gathering place but have also started using the various parks for family events and community gatherings.”
Recommended and amended updates to the bylaw would:
• Prohibit the operation of a barbeque or other cooking appliance within a (waterfront) park unless it is a designated community-use barbeque installed by the City or otherwise authorized by the City.
• Prohibit the disposal or depositing of community-use barbeque coals in any waste container or any other location other than those designated for their safe disposal.
• Prohibit the use of large tents or sunshades within a (waterfront) park.

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