Publisher’s Column: Is It Fair To Make Choices That Benefit Residents Rather Than Visitors?

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There were approximately 100 cars parked on Dunks Bay Road in this 2017 photo. That’s a lot of people to cram onto a 66 foot wide strip of beach. Things have gotten more crowded since then. MNBP Council is considering limiting the number of parking spaces on Dunks Bay Road; they may also reserve some of them so that locals can access the cemetery (behind the row of cars at right.)
By John Francis

Most people who are living on the Bruce Peninsula are living here on purpose. We chose to come here or chose to stay here. 

We didn’t do it for the night life (except those who spend a lot of time staring up at our wonderful dark skies…)

We’re here for the lakes, the shorelines, the forests, the limestone, the peace and quiet. But we are finding ourselves crowded out of the places we came here to enjoy. We’re also finding that our kids and grandkids can’t afford to live here.

Is it fair to stop people from parking on Moore Street in Lion’s Head? Is it fair to force them to find another place to park and then walk further (or find some other place to go)?

Is it fair to do the same thing at several places around Tobermory? Mermaid’s Cove (aka Burnt Point), Dunks Bay, Big Tub Lighthouse and Little Cove all get ‘way too many people, every day, all summer and in all cases, too many parked cars for safety.

Our Municipal Council made a decision last summer to eliminate parking on the residential portion of Moore Street. It seems they are on the cusp of deciding to implement similar measures at other locations.

They may even go as far as reserving some parking spaces for locals. 

This will disappoint a lot of visitors. But it must be pointed out that most of them were going to be disappointed anyway. A comment someone made at a sustainable tourism meeting a few years ago resonates with me. “There are more than ten million people within a four hour drive of MNBP. We can’t be the wilderness getaway for ten million people — the peninsula’s not big enough”.

Councillor Laurie (Smokey) Golden is the sole member of MNBP Council who lives in Tobermory; she often takes up the cause for Tobermory residents. When the topic of reducing or eliminating parking was discussed, she spoke in favour of finding a way to maintain access for residents when limiting parking. “I am against limiting locals from getting to Mermaid’s Cove,” she said, and would like to apply the same principle at Dunks Bay.

But that’s not even the most important issue, she told me. “What keeps me up at night is that young people can’t afford to stay here.”

This problem does not have a single cause; it has several. Lack of town water in Tobermory and lack of town sewers in Lion’s Head (as well as large areas of Tobermory) make it difficult and expensive to build institutional or even multi-unit residences. The same factors reduce the likelihood of getting housing grants from senior governments — they don’t like complications such as wells and septic systems, which means they don’t like Northern Bruce Peninsula.

At the same time, the private rental market is now driven by Short-Term Rental rates — why offer a property as a long-term rental when short-term visitors are willing to pay five times as much? This has driven prices well beyond the reach of young people working in our community — “We’re screwing ourselves by allowing rampant speculation,” Councillor Golden says.

In some ways it comes down to a question of priorities — who do we care about, residents or visitors? Residents would benefit from town water, town sewers and regulations that make it attractive to rent properties long term.

A very thoughtful report on the housing issue was released last month; the SPARK HOUSING INITIATIVE report can be found through the Tobermory Meeting Place website.