Big Tub lighthouse shoreline on Aug 8, 2020. SCUBA divers, kayakers, swimmers, sunbathers, selfie-takers and not much social distancing.
By John Francis

At its July 27 Meeting, Northern Bruce Peninsula’s Municipal Council voted to eliminate public parking on Moore Street in Lion’s Head. I spoke to Mayor Milt McIver, municipal CAO Peggy Van Mierlo-West and Moore Street resident David Rodgers, to get different perspectives on the issue.

Moore Street residents have been asking for this for a long time, Rodgers explained, but this time the petition was pretty strong — almost everybody signed it. There were compelling photographs and videos and four different lots of background information.

I asked Mayor Milt McIver what had tipped Council to implement a ban at this time. With up to 200 cars parked along Moore St, the safety issue was most important, he replied, but the decision was easy to make — in addition to near-unanimous support from residents, the parking ban was also supported by Ontario Parks and the Peninsula Bruce Trail Club.

“We’re seeing a lot of people doing stay-cations instead of travelling,” said CAO Van Mierlo-West. With everybody in Southern Ontario staying in Southern Ontario, the number of people who end up on the peninsula “has a lot to do with social media”. She paused for a moment and checked something on her computer. #tobermory has 265,000 Instagram posts, she told me. #lionshead has 465,000. (I was stunned.) “On Tik-tok,” she continued, “#lionshead has 43,000 and #tobermory has… 6.3 million.” (That explains a few things, I realized…)

Has the Moore Street initiative worked? A few people navigated by Google Maps and tried to park and go, said the CAO, “but overall, it’s working,”.

Rodgers agrees. He intercepted traffic the first Saturday after the signs went up, to turn them around before they got to the residential part of Moore Street. He and other residents wondered if people would cooperate. “If you tell people they have to park in town and walk — will they do it? What we discovered on the weekend is — yes, they will. Definitely.” He was somewhat surprised at the numbers who were willing to park in town or at the arena and walk from there.

Rodgers notes that the changes are not limited to “No Parking” signs. The Moore Street Side Trail is also closed to the public. Lion’s Head Provincial Park is now accessible only by the main Bruce Trail via the McCurdy Street parking lot. The side trail crosses land owned by a cottagers’ association, who have closed it.

Rodgers feels that the pandemic stay-cations of 2020 have given us an insight into what things will be like a few years from now. In the longer term, Lion’s Head Provincial Park needs “a managed solution like they have at the Grotto”. He was surprised by the number of visitors who asked him “where is the visitor centre? Where do we pay to park?” He acknowledges that solving the parking problem on Moore Street does not solve the problem of garbage and trampling at the provincial park. He hopes that the longer walk will deter those carrying barbeques and coolers full of food.

CAO Van Mierlo-West is optimistic that a long-term solution can be reached, something more pro-active than a few “No Parking” signs. “I think we can develop a partnership here,” she told me, with Ontario Parks and the Bruce Trail Club.

But Moore Street is not the only location in MNBP to see a stunning increase in visitors. The National Park shoreline at Little Cove (near Tobermory) is even more popular than Moore Street. Reliable observers have counted nearly 300 cars parked on Little Cove Road. At 3.5 visitors per car, that puts over a thousand people on 150m of rocky shoreline. That is too many people on the shore and with that number of cars parked on the road, it would be impossible to get emergency vehicles through.

When all the “No Parking” signs were stolen from Little Cove Road, Parks Canada came through with replacements, instantly. They don’t exactly say “No Parking” but they get the message across quite nicely.

So MNBP took action there too. They put up a lot of “No Parking” signs along Little Cove Road, but then somebody ripped dozens of them out. This was not a casual act of vandalism, the CAO told me — this was a concerted effort by a strong person. They tossed half a dozen of the signs into the bush but appear to have carted the rest of them away. Parks Canada came to the rescue, with a loan of a bunch of signs. Some of them say “Emergency and Authorized Vehicles Only” instead of “No Parking”, but they get the point across.

On weekends, MNBP Bylaw Enforcement personnel put up a barricade on Little Cove Road at an intersection a kilometre east of the highway. Once the lot at the end of the road is full they turn people back. Many of those who are turned back cross the highway and park on Warner Bay Road, then walk 3km to Little Cove. This has resulted in a firestorm of complaints from Warner Bay Road residents, but it seems likely the long walk resulted in fewer barbeques and huge coolers finding their way to shore.

Mayor McIver agreed that bylaw enforcement in 2020 is a lot like “whack-a-mole”. You solve a problem in one place and it pops up somewhere else.

One of the places the problem pops up is Big Tub lighthouse. The lighthouse property offers a hundred metres or less of rocky shoreline and often sees crowds of 300+ people. People park in obvious “No Parking” zones, blocking driveways and making it inaccessible to emergency vehicles. Residents are furious, but then, they’ve been furious for years. This is not a new problem, just worse than ever.

“We’re not quite prepared for the traffic we’re seeing right now,” said Mayor McIver. In the longer term, “We need to have a multi-lateral discussion about parking in a number of locations” including, but not limited to, Big Tub Harbour, Little Cove and Lion’s Head. He notes that “everything’s free” at Little Cove and in Lion’s Head. We need to increase our bylaw enforcement staff. So we need to look at ways to pay for that and paid parking is an obvious way to generate revenue.

In the short run, the Mayor says we just need to get through the next few weekends. He points out that we all owe a debt to those residents who tirelessly pick up garbage around the municipality.

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The Agenda for MNBP Council’s Aug 10 Meeting begins with a delegation from Tobermory Real Estate Investors Inc (TREII). The group proposes to bring the historic ferry MS Norgoma to Tobermory. TREII’s Power Point presentation is included in the Meeting’s Agenda (www.northbrucepeninsula.ca). Lively debate is anticipated.