The Balls Beach parking area will remain closed for another six months while the town looks for alternative areas to create launches for kayaks and paddle boards.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero spearheaded the idea of creating new recreational launch areas along the shore, suggesting Niagara-on-the-Lake has a problem with overcrowding at current locations.
“I’ve always thought we needed to look at spreading out the tourists and tourist activities in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” she told councillors Monday night.
“Everybody’s always trying to cram everything into a small space,” Disero said, referencing the popularity of Balls Beach as a hangout and a non-motorized boat launch.
The mayor recommended the area in front of 144 River Beach Dr. as an ideal space to create a new recreational vehicle launch. She suggested installing docks and even creating a sandy shore for visitors.
Disero also said the docks at Navy Hall on Ricardo Street and the area near the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre are good candidates for new launch areas.
“It seems a shame that we keep all fighting for the same space,” she said.
The walk from River Beach Drive to Balls Beach is over 150 feet. At the Navy Hall kayakers would only need to haul equipment 30 to 70 feet to get to the water, depending on the route they took, Disero said.
Her recommendations were added to a motion presented by Coun. Sandra O’Connor last week to keep the parking area closed while staff reviewed the environmental impact proposed changes would have.
Residents have complained the small parking lot and drop-off area is dangerous for pedestrians.
The motion was generally supported by other councillors but met with resistance from Couns. Erwin Wiens and Norm Arsenault.
“There’s always been a parking space in that parking lot – it has been there for 50 years,” Wiens said.
He said councillors were no longer addressing the safety concerns that originally prompted the review of Balls Beach and suggested O’Connor was placing the environment above residents' safety.
“We hired someone to (make Balls Beach safe). Now we’ve gone completely off-topic and we’re talking about finding different beaches for people to go to. I won’t support it,” he said.
O’Connor took issue with the idea she was diminishing pedestrian safety.
“I never said the environment should take prominence over safety,” she said.
The motion has been referred to staff with a follow up report slated for January 2022.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report