'It's time sensitive': Mono and Ontario Parks debate solutions to parking, crowding issues, at Mono Cliffs near Orangeville

·4 min read

Immediate action needs to be taken to resolve the roadside parking problem by visitors to Mono Park.

This was the general theme presented by all of Mono Council during a conversation with Ontario Parks staff on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

“It’s absolutely imperative that we find a solution to this as quickly as possible,” said Coun. Sharon Martin.

Nearly a month ago, council had submitted a letter to parks superintendent, Jillian Van Niekerk, asking for a solution to the chaos caused by visitors to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park this year.

With a lack of available parking in the lots, this has led to vehicles parking up both sides of 3rd Line.

This created a dangerous situation for drivers trying to pass through in vehicles and farming equipment, pedestrians walking to and from the park, and a total disregard of private residential properties.

“Individual residents have had the experience of people putting garbage on their lawns, putting quite incredible things on their front lawns, and leaving human waste,” said Mayor Laura Ryan.

Creating a no-parking zone on both sides of the road has been one possible solution, but it would bring with it a number of challenges.

“All it’s going to do is push the problem further down the road,” said Ryan. “It’s going to take a lot of our OPP constable time in order to issue tickets if we put up a no parking zone.”

As Ryan noted in previous meetings, the burden is falling on Mono taxpayers to resolve these issues, as it is taking the town’s resources.

“Quite frankly, we’re not creating the problem,” said Ryan.

Expanding the current parking lot was one idea raised by council to alleviate the overflow of parking. But Van Niekerk explained doing so wouldn’t be feasible.

“It doesn’t make sense ecologically or financially,” she said, noting that the location of the current lot is part of that reasoning.

“We are exploring the option to have an additional parking lot around the same size on the 2nd Line,” she added.

This second lot could hold another 100-130 cars. If approved, it would not be completed until next fall, just in time for the crowds coming to see the leaves. The option would require some considerations by both the town and Ontario Parks.

“The park is there to protect the area,” said Van Niekerk. “We have to think about how many people do we want in there, and what does that do to the land?”

Parking, littering, and overcrowding challenges have not been limited to Mono Cliffs. Van Niekerk shared that Ontario Parks has also been working with the Town of Caledon regarding the same issues at Forks of the Credit.

One thing that has helped them work through the challenges is a committee of parks staff and Town staff to work together. In some cases, it included giving special consideration to park wardens to allow them to enforce the no-parking and tow-away bylaw surrounding the park.

This is one possible solution Mono could look into as well, according to Van Niekerk.

“We would be designated under certain sections; we wouldn’t be coming into town and enforcing the bylaws, but we would be able to do so just outside of the park boundaries,” she explained.

The Town of Mono will move forward with a group to work with Ontario Parks to address the long term issues, but made it clear that interim solutions need to be found immediately.

“It’s time sensitive; we really need this done now,” reiterated Martin.

In a normal year, she added, enforcement for the winter wouldn’t be an issue, but trends have demonstrated an increase in winter trail usage, especially during COVID-19.

“Right now, you can’t buy skis, you can’t buy snowmobiles; you can’t buy anything for the winter, just like what we went through with bikes and canoes,” said Martin. “I’m thinking that this is far more urgent than saying ‘let’s just have a meeting’.”

Van Niekerk assured council that the issue is serious to them as well, and parks staff are willing to work hard to help find solutions.

“We really have come with listening ears to see how we can work together, what your thoughts are, and start from there,” said Van Niekerk.

Tabitha Wells/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner