Port Lambton homeowners made their pleas to council in an effort to keep a new parking lot out of their backyards.
But after taking their concerns into account it looks like paving is still set to begin on 45 new vehicle spaces next to McDonald Park.
It’s the latest development in the ongoing saga of the attempts to fix issues at the ball park and playground. Some steps taken during the past year included a redesign of the baseball fields and the removal of trees. “At every stage of this project the neighbouring community has had issues with these improvements,” says Director of Community Services Kendall Lindsay.
But parking remains a major sticking point. The lack of a dedicated space has led to vehicles parking in restricted areas on nearby streets, along the River Trail on the St. Clair Parkway, or even on homeowner’s lawns.
The solution proposed by Lindsay is to add 45 parking spaces on the west side of the park. This would be achieved by connecting Reedy Lane and Reedy Street, between First and Second Streets.
This quickly drew the ire of homeowners on the St. Clair Parkway whose homes back onto the proposed lot. A collection of letters and presentations were made at Monday’s council meeting in opposition to the idea.
“Our objective, along with the majority of the homeowners located on the block between First Street and Second Street, is to have the green space located on the west side of the park left green,” says Karen Moran during her pitch to council. She says she’s collected more than 120 signatures supporting this objective from residents.
“A paved parking lot in this space would not invite dog walkers or the kids, but instead create a permanent change in the footprint of McDonald Park, a huge loss of privacy in the backyards that border it, create a significant increase in noise and undoubtedly decrease the property values,” says Moran.
“For Council to make a decision that results in such an extreme alteration of a community park is an incredible misstep of authority,” she wrote in an accompanying letter.
Moran says enough green space was already lost when the township cut down several trees during park renovations last year. “While most municipalities in Ontario are fighting to reduce their carbon footprint, the St. Clair Township Council seems to have gone rogue.”
“The decision to remove the trees and forever change the footprint of a beautiful community space was done with zero input from the local community, particularly those neighbours whose properties directly line the park space,” wrote Moran.
Mayor Steve Arnold says the trees were old and diseased and had to come down for safety reasons. He says the township has planted more than 175 acres of trees during the current term of council.
“McDonald Park is a community park that is used by many people for other interests beside baseball. I have seen children play tag, soccer and fly kites, adults exercising and doing yoga,” wrote Port Lambton resident Shawn Morgan. “If this area is paved, where do you expect the taxpayers of this community go to enjoy some green space away from the general main road? There is no such place.”
John Moran questioned why the township couldn’t explore delaying the parking lot while trying to buy the land on the east side of the park from CSX Rail and putting it there instead. Arnold says St. Clair has been trying to acquire that land for decades and gotten nowhere. “It’s a point of frustration for all of us,” he says.
Councillor Rose Atkins says “We cannot have a park without parking.”
“The River Trail is used now more than it’s ever been used in history. The more that cars park along there… that just creates another safety issue for anyone trying to get to the park… I empathize completely but I cannot see having a park with nowhere for cars to go to,” says Atkins.
Council voted to approve Lindsay’s proposal and move ahead with the parking lot, with some conditions. The parking lot will be gated off to vehicle traffic at each end of the newly connected Reedy Street and Lane except for when the park is in use for games or events. This is to prevent the new road being used as a through street and to keep off road vehicles out of the parking lot.
Council specified the parking lot and connecting road should be made available to pedestrian traffic at all times however.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent