Mac Christie Flamborough ReviewFriday, November 13, 2020
The online reservation system to limit visitors to the Spencer Gorge – and try to prevent traffic and parking madness in Greensville – may have simply shifted the problem to a different community.
Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge told council Oct.28 that an influx of visitors to Grindstone Falls has created an “absolute nightmare in Waterdown.”
”For those who can’t get in at Webster’s and Tews Falls, it appears they’re heading over to Grindstone,” she said. “There are just thousands of people converging on the poor little streets in Waterdown and making their way down Mill Street to the waterfall.”
In an interview, Partridge said the reservation system that the Hamilton Conservation Authority has instituted at the waterfalls in Greensville is working really well for the Greensville community.
“But it’s also, I think somewhat, pushing people over to Grindstone,” she said. “But I think the bigger issue for Grindstone is the amount of promotion on the Toronto blogs.”
Area residents – particularly those in the area of Union Street, Griffin Street, Main Street South, Sealey Park and even Mountain Brow Road – have seen their neighbourhoods inundated with visitors to the waterfall, also known as Smokey Hollow, said Partridge.
Amy Wilson, who has lived on Union Street for three years said the parking issues on the street have increased substantially.
“It’s atrocious – this year in particular,” she said of the parking. “We’re getting a lot of people outside of our region coming, so I think that has something to do with the increased volume of visitors and parking.”
She said throughout the summer and early fall it has been “a nightmare.”
“We couldn’t even get out of our driveway,” she said. “It’s increased substantially.
“My guess is that they’re going to Smokey Hollow.”
She said the issues are also spreading to Main Street South, but said dealing with the issues is a challenge.
Wilson said the parking woes have exacerbated the ongoing issue of speeding cut-through traffic on the street, as drivers try to find a faster route to and from Waterdown Road. She said drivers often disregard signage and bylaws related to parking, as well as making illegal left turns from Mill Street onto Union and blowing the stop sign at Union and Main.
“We have a number of children under the age of 10 (on the street),” she said. “A lot of the neighbourhood worries that someone is going to get hit by a car.”
She added it is particularly dangerous with parking on both sides of the street.
“If someone were to walk out, the cars would be blocking their view,” she said. “There’s more skin in the game for me, especially if we’re going to raise our son here.
“He’s a baby, so he’ll be walking in no time.”
Arie Vanspronsen, a longtime Union Street resident, said the parking has gotten really bad this year
“I would say the parking issue has become really bad this year,” he said, adding several times he hasn’t been able to get into his driveway due to the vehicles parked on both sides of the road.
He said the stop sign issue has been bad for years – which sees people going around the corner from Main Street to Union.
“A lot of times, people don’t even bother stopping,” he said. “I would say 80 per cent of the traffic from Main Street goes on to Union Street – and then south down Waterdown Road.”
Arie’s wife Lee, said she has almost been hit by vehicles while crossing the street twice in the past week.
She said they don’t want to prevent visitors from enjoying Waterdown and Smokey Hollow – but want to find a solution that works for both visitors and residents.
“We just want a system that is safe for everybody,” she said.
To help deal with the parking issues, several parking enforcement changes will be made by the city – including adding no parking and no stopping restrictions and a special enforcement area on Mountain Brow Road, and adding no stopping restrictions on both sides of Union Street. The street currently allows boulevard parking on both sides of the street and its unknown if the new restrictions will impact that parking.
Arie said the parking on the weekends often chokes traffic off on Union Street – with cars double-parking on both the street and boulevard – narrowing the street so only one car at a time can get through. As a result, the traffic is slowed down – but when the new parking restrictions are introduced, he expects drivers will be speeding through on weekends as well.
“For us it’s a no-win situation,” he said.
He added on several occasions he has seen people parked on the street, sitting on the back of their vehicles drinking, or leaving food garbage, masks and gloves on this lawn.
Partridge said the parking restrictions are a start to solving the issue, adding the city previously made Mill Street around Smokey Hollow a special parking enforcement area, which makes parking in the area punishable by a $250 ticket.
She said since the beginning of September, parking and bylaw enforcement have issued close to 400 tickets.
“I don’t think there is any clear, silver bullet solution,” she said. “The first thing we have to do is relieve the pressure on the residents and then over the course of this winter I want to find some solutions.”
She said the parking lot at the waterfall only holds about 25 cars – if that, adding as there have been thoughts of making the parking lot bigger, but there are issues with that because the land in the area is all environmentally sensitive.
“I don’t know what the answer to that is – and is that going to be enough?” she said. “If you make the parking lot bigger, does it just mean you’re going to have more cars coming to the area?
“We’ve got to come up with some sort of a way to deal with this.”
Partridge said previously there had been some uncertainty as to who owns the waterfall, and is thus responsible for it. She said many departments thought it was the jurisdiction of the Hamilton Conservation Authority or Conservation Halton.
However, it has now been determined that the City of Hamilton does own the falls and the parking area – although Conservation Halton is responsible for land around the falls and the Bruce Trail also owns land in the area.
She said Albion Falls is the other waterfall owned by the city, so they need to determine if the bylaws applied to that waterfall will apply to Smokey Hollow as well.
“If the bylaws don’t apply to or include Grindstone Falls, that’s a problem,” she said, adding a meeting is scheduled for later this month to deal with the jurisdiction issues.