Council to form committee with OPP, MTO, to look at solving parking issue

KAGAWONG—The Manitoulin detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will be working with the Township of Billings to alleviate some of the safety concerns council has raised in the past with vehicles parking in the area of Highway 540 near Bridal Veil Falls, causing congestion in the area and posing a safety hazard for people walking along and crossing the highway.

“One of our main concerns is the parking in the area, it has always been an issue. We have contacted all the relevant parties for solutions to our problem and that is why we invited you (OPP) to our meeting tonight,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack.

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Kevin Webb, staff sergeant detachment commander of the Manitoulin OPP, along with Constable Mike Patterson attended last week’s Billings council meeting. “I brought Mike along with me here tonight. This is a matter of the safety of the community, its members and visitors. My suggestion is to put together a committee with the township council and the MTO (Ministry of Transportation) and maybe troubleshooting the issue. It’s important we pro-activily deal with the parking problem.”

Staff Sergeant Webb acknowledged the township’s efforts in going ahead and purchasing land for a parking lot, and had lobbied the MTO for the no stopping signs that are going to be installed in the area in question. “One of the questions we need to look at is how to get everyone more people to park in the township parking lot. That is why I think we need a committee struck of all stakeholders to look at ideas on how to proactively look at solving the parking issue instead of just having visitors come through being charged for parking in the area. We can charge someone for illegally parking, but once we (police) leave someone else will park illegally. We need to look at how we can solve this issue.”

“There has been a lot of work done on this the past couple of years,” said Billings Mayor Austin Hunt, who suggested, “maybe we could put up a sign (at the township parking lot) stating it is free parking.”

“Other than this, and no stopping signs, what else can we do?” asked Councillor Nora Bath-Haring.

Constable Patterson suggested that along with the no stopping signs, the township could have tow away signs set up for people parking where they shouldn’t.

“We all agree the problems need to be resolved before someone is seriously hurt,” stated Constable Patterson, noting that the problem needs to be solved before the busy summer tourist season.

Mayor Hunt said there is a small MTO sign at the bridge saying ‘no parking,’ but that it is too small.

Councillor Barb Erskine said in the case of the Cup and Saucer Trail, the OPP has indicated they would enforce the no parking areas on the highway near the trail entrance.

It was pointed out by the OPP that even if police did enforce the no stopping rules, once an officer leaves the area, someone else will undoubtedly park in the same spot. It doesn’t deter the problem on a permanent scale.

“And with the new section of the laws, we still have to identify someone before we charge (ticket) them. We can’t just leave a ticket on their vehicle, we have to identify and ticket the driver,” said Constable Patterson. “I noticed last August there were cars parked on both sides of the highway. And the problem is with kids and adults walking between the vehicles and trying to get to the other side of the highway.”

Councillor Alkenbrack said she supports the idea of setting up a committee of the township, OPP and MTO to explore further ideas on the parking issue.

“You may want to explore a crosswalk, signage and possible bylaws that can be put in place,” said Staff Sergeant Webb.

It was pointed out that MTO officials have indicated they are willing to come to a meeting.

“We (township) can’t put signage up on the bridge, or pylons in the no parking area,” said Councillor Erskine. “We have tried different things. We are anxious come to a resolution on this problem.”

Having a crosswalk installed has shown to slow traffic down in other areas, said Staff Sergeant Webb.

It was pointed out by Councillor Alkenbrack that there are crosswalks with flashing lights set up in Aundeck Omni Kaning.

“I still think having the police stationed here to monitor the parking, even occasionally would still carry some weight. People respect authority,” stated Councillor Erskine.

It was also suggested that by making it known that those parking in no stopping areas can be fined $40, on social media like the municipal website and in OPP releases, it may deter some people from parking in these areas.

“I will look at having times where we can have officers assigned here to monitor, as well as monitoring for speeding,” said Staff Sergeant Webb. “The committee can look at proactive options that can be addressed and I will set up times when officers will be here to patrol the area and see if this helps.”