Norfolk County has concluded that the current situation in Long Point regarding public parking and beach access is as good as it gets and will not change.
Norfolk council has acknowledged there are problems with congestion, crowding and trespassing on hot summer days. However, council also concluded that major changes will simply cause new problems elsewhere.
Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele has devoted many hours in recent weeks to these issues due to concerns over COVID-19 and requirements for social distancing. He endorsed a staff report at the July 14 meeting that supports the current parking arrangement on Erie Boulevard and the maintenance of six public access points to the beach off Woodstock Avenue.
“This situation is 10 years old, and there appears to be little room for compromise,” Masschaele said. “Any decision council makes today will make somebody very unhappy. Long Point property owners are divided about the parking and the beach access.”
Due to the urgency of the situation, Bill Cridland, Norfolk’s general manager of community and emergency services, said there wasn’t time to canvass all 800-plus cottage owners in Long Point. Meanwhile, the business community is – by and large – satisfied with the current arrangement.
“Staff feel the removal of any of these spots would simply add to problem parking at another location in Long Point,” Cridland said in his report. “Also, the business community is opposed to removing parking spots.”
Last month, Long Point cottager Lisa Livingston told Norfolk and Haldimand’s board of health that dozens of the 163 parking spaces installed on Erie Boulevard in 2010 should be closed to reflect the loss of beach off Woodstock Avenue arising from record-high water levels in Lake Erie.
Livingston warned that what beach remains does not allow for proper social distancing on a hot summer day, raising the spectre of a super-spreader event by the lakeside. Staff and council concur that eliminating spaces on Erie Boulevard will simply encourage illegal parking elsewhere and do little to reduce congestion.
The Long Point Ratepayers’ Association represents about 400 cottage owners. President Karen Deans of London watched the live feed of the July 14 proceeding. She was disappointed with the discussion and the fact cottage owners were not consulted.
“It’s ‘We-against-they,’ and it shouldn’t be this way,” Deans said. “Our point is this parking is creating absolute chaos for waterfront property owners.
“I’m very disappointed in our councillor. As a ratepayers’ association, we effectively have no representation.”
Since Norfolk’s tourism and economic development department identified Long Point as an under-utilized resource, property owners in the formerly quiet resort community have complained about traffic congestion, illegal parking, public urination, public intoxication, littering and occasional bad behaviour.
Numerous hours of council time in recent years have been occupied discussing these matters with no resolution. Cottagers who have spoken out say the traffic Norfolk County has encouraged should be directed to Long Point Provincial Park at the east end of Erie Boulevard.