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Premier Ford criticizes dramatic increase in parking rates on Barrie waterfront

July 2020

Premier Doug Ford recently criticized the dramatic increase in parking rates for municipal lots and street parking along the waterfront in Barrie to $10 per hour, calling it price gouging during a pandemic.  As a Barrie resident, I’d like to offer some context to the issue.

Part of the reason the waterfront parks in Barrie have, for years, been over-crowded every summer, especially on weekends, has been due to the excessive number of visitors to Barrie who would hold family reunions, or other such large gatherings of family and friends, at places like Centennial Park beach.

These visitors would come with their own BBQs to cook food, along with folding tables to lay out a buffet of different food items for their 20-30 family/friends to enjoy.  There’s little to indicate that these visitors were contributing anything to the local economy, other than the parking fees in the municipal lots at the waterfront, but leaving behind their garbage for Barrie City workers to collect and haul away.  Meanwhile, Barrie residents, whose taxes pay for the maintenance of the parks, have to deal with the limited parking, the crowded beach and the cost of removing the increased amount of trash.

This problem led to the implementation of paid parking at $3 an hour along the waterfront several years back (Barrie residents could park for free with a resident parking pass), to help recover some costs to the city.  

Now with the parking rate at $10, whether justified or not, we’ll see what impact it has on visitors.  Some critics have stated that the city and local businesses will lose money, as this will turn away visitors to the city, but as stated above, they generally aren’t spending locally anyway.     

To be perfectly clear, I have no problem with visitors coming to Barrie for the day and enjoying our beaches, as I love to travel myself.  However, when I go on day-trips somewhere, I will do things like buy food in local establishments, pay to tour local museums or other tourist attractions, and sometimes buy souvenirs.  In other words, I support the local economy as much as I reasonably can.    

That said, Barrie City Council should seek a vendor who can offer better food options at Centennial Park, instead of just the small “burger shack” currently at the park.  I have suggested replacing the current building with something that would suit a family restaurant-type of operation, with an outdoor patio on the water side, making sure the building is a low-profile structure to ensure it doesn’t excessively impede the view of the waterfront.  

Licenced food trucks might be a good option too, for a quick meal.

There are two restaurants nearby, Pie Pizza restaurant and The Farmhouse, but neither are right beside the beach.  While both are very good restaurants, they are a short walk away and across the increasingly busy Lakeshore Road.  Human nature dictates that something conveniently located right beside the beach area would likely be more attractive to visitors.

I also like the idea of a small café/bistro right on the waterfront, perhaps at the south end of the park.

Barrie City Council recently enacted a temporary ban on BBQs in city parks, something I would argue should be a permanent ban.

Tourism is important to the area, but there should be some give with the take.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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