By John Francis

Northern Bruce Peninsula may not be fully open, but it’s definitely full. Accommodations are mostly full and there have been record numbers  of parked cars on Moore St in Lion’s Head and Little Cove Rd in Tobermory (assumed to be largely day trippers at those locations).

In addition to the usual crop of severances and rezoning applications, MNBP Council is having to make quick decisions on many tourism-related issues as all the while, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay surge past previous high-water records.

Little Cove Road on July 25. Reliable observers say that nearly 300 cars have been counted on this road, backed up most of the way to Hwy 6. That would put about a thousand people on a relatively small area of rocky beach.

Should the picnic areas along the west end of Tobermory’s Little Tub Harbour be improved and extended as requested by Tobermory Chamber of Commerce President Neda Sarbakhsh? Should Council consider turning other parking spaces into pedestrian space or closing Bay Street from the cenotaph to the liquor store?

These issues were discussed at length at Council’s July 13 Meeting, with opposing arguments by Councillors Megan Myles and Smokey Golden. I interviewed both.

Councillor Myles was concerned that Bay Street’s narrow sidewalk prevented people from maintaining proper physical distancing. If it couldn’t close the road entirely, she thought the municipality could turn a row of parking spaces into a wider pedestrian area. Councillor Golden hears from a lot of people from Tobermory. She strongly opposed any change. “The people who talked to me… had no interest in closing the road.” Any decision on this issue would need more than a report to Council, she feels. It would need a full public consultation process. She recommended deferring any decision and Council acceded.

Should Tobermory close Bay Street from the cenotaph to the Liquor Store? Or barricade off some parking spaces to make more room for pedestrians to maintain proper distancing? MNBP deferred making a decision.

Councillor Myles feels the issue is not settled. She feels people need to be asked what they do want, not just what they don’t want; you can’t be paralyzed by controversy. “If you can’t get consensus, you have to look at what has worked elsewhere and take a stance.”

In 2019 MNBP turned three parking spaces into picnic benches as an experiment. Proponents want the area expanded; opponents don’t.

MNBP Council’s Agenda for July 27 includes a number of letters and a petition, all asking that parking be banned from both sides of Moore St in Lion’s Head.

Moore Street is the convenient access to the Bruce Trail section leading to Lion’s Head Provincial Park, including lookouts and McKay’s Harbour. There is a Bruce Trail parking lot at McCurdy Street, but it is woefully inadequate for demand, especially this year. More than 200 cars have been observed, parked along Moore Street. When they are all along the south side of the street, it is annoying. When they are on both sides of the street, it blocks access to ambulances and fire trucks, creating a potentially life-threatening situation.

Moore Street in Lion’s Head gets a little busier every year. Residents get especially upset when cars are parked on both sides of the street, making it impassable to ambulances or fire trucks.

The provincial government has historically refused to deal with the issue. A letter in the July 27 Agenda continues that tradition.

Stay tuned.