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Parking permit policy angers   campers

Janis Leering: The Mirror
Friday August 20, 2004.

Charmaine Kavanagh may be ready to go home after camping in Lafontaine all summer, but this year, it was a visit without much beach time.
And it wasn't because of the weather.

Kavanagh, who lives in Newmarket with her family, is angry with  Tiny Township council which approved a bylaw that resulted in her  not being able to park at her favourite beach this summer.

"This is the first year we've come to Lafontaine Campground  for the whole summer, but we've been here on and off," she said.

"The kids always want to go back to Vic's Place because we like going north, and we like the security here, and the pool."

With Steven, 9, and David, 7, being two active boys, Kavanagh said she likes going to the beach, to give them a place to expend their  energy.

"We've been coming here for six years, and I enjoyed going to Thunder Beach. I was told about the beach by another friend,  and was told it was pretty, and good for swimming because you can walk out a long way, with the sand bar."

But once she realized the permit system was in place, Kavanagh has only taken the 20-minute drive once, risking a fine of $60.

"Another camper here told me about the new parking permits,  and so I took a drive to the beach, to see if it was true."

There are only 150 permits available for non-residents each year,  at the cost of $30 each, and by the time Kavanagh called the municipality to inquire about it, they were already sold out.

"I was told they usually sell out by Easter. I think it's crazy  there's only 150 available. People don't usually plan that far ahead.

"Think about the amount of people who live in the region. One  hundred and fifty permits isn't very many."

Kavanagh learned she could park at Balm Beach without a permit,  but she said the water is too rocky for her liking.

"Whenever I've been to Thunder Beach, it's not very crowded, and no one is making a mess. I've never seen a problem there, and I don't know why they would restrict parking for tourists.

"Especially since we help the health of the local economy. (Council) is pushing a lot of people out."

Kavanagh said one option for council is to put parking meters out, and allow only so many spots for cars.

"In Toronto, at Kew Beach, they have one big meter, and you  have to pay to park in the lot."

That way, it is fair for anyone who is visiting, said Kavanagh.

For now, though, she has four options.

She can either buy a permit early next year, have her husband drop her and the kids off at the beach while he drives back to the campsite, risk getting a ticket, or find another place to camp next year.

"We want to enjoy the beach together as a family, and I'm not  willing to risk getting a fine. I spend enough money here as it  is.
"Right now, we're looking for a new place. We're checking in Haliburton."

Sending Kavanagh packing to another campground isn't what council  was trying to do, said Deputy Mayor Pierre Paul Maurice.

He said the municipality is doing what it can to help tourists,  but still keep waterfront residents happy.

"First of all, we approved the permit parking almost three years ago," said Maurice, which means the permit structure was in place last summer when Kavanagh was enjoying Thunder Beach without realizing she needed one.

"There is also some open parking, albeit limited, and it might just not be at the beach she wants to go to. But we are trying to send people to our six major parks."

The reason behind the permits is to give the public, including residents of neighbouring municipalities, access to some beaches in Tiny Township. The municipality is currently in negotiations with waterfront owners about public versus private beach areas, and the permits were a way to still allow other residents to enjoy the sand.

He said last summer, there were many nasty letters written to the  municipality about the permits, but this year, there have been very few.

While the 150 permits is just an arbitrary number council agreed to, Maurice said the $60 fine was steep so residents would take the bylaw seriously.

"We were also told by residents this idea was just a tax grab, but there has been a drastic reduction when you look at the number  of fines collected this summer."

As far as Kavanagh's complaint about the bylaw being unfair for  tourists, who don't plan their holidays until June, Maurice said  council is trying to work with tourists, and waterfront residents.

"I'm not saying (permits) is the ideal thing to do, but we are trying to work with our residents, and still allow access to the beach. That's what we had to do."

Nine-year-old Steven Kavanagh, his mom Charmaine, and brother David, 7, are  disappointed they can't spend the day at Thunder Beach. The  campers were surprised to learn a parking permit is needed at many beaches in Tiny.

  Janis Leering photo


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