Meaford mayor Barb Clumpus has responded to public criticism of the recently passed parks use bylaw, and she says that residents need not fear using Meaford's parks this winter.
A section of the recently approved parks use bylaw has raised alarm bells for a number of Meaford residents, who took to social media to voice their opinions regarding Meaford's parks being closed during the winter months.
Section 3.2 of Bylaw 2018-68, approved by council at their September 24 meeting, states that “Parks shall be closed for the season from November 1st to April 20th annually”. That statement has caused concern for some residents, and the language used in the bylaw was also concerning for some members of council.
Also noted in the bylaw is that municipal parks are officially closed between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Mayor Clumpus told The Independent that the bylaw came about after issues along the waterfront last year, and it is intended to give the municipality tools to deal with those who might cause a disturbance in a municipal park.
“First, I agree with you, words DO matter,” said Mayor Clumpus, referring to a recent editorial on the issue in this newspaper. “And so do profanity and actions that intimidate and harass law-abiding citizens who expect to use our parks respectfully, free from abuse. Many will recall the incidents of harassment, intimidation of women walkers, pubic exposure and urination on public property, excessive noise in the very early mornings, cleaning fish on picnic tables creating garbage and bird nuisances, and the disrespect of public as well as private property that occurred on Bayfield Street last winter. A small number of rude and obnoxious individuals were the cause that prompted Council to direct a bylaw be drafted that governed the use of our parks and public spaces, particularly over the winter months when these areas are not maintained. Without a bylaw in place, the municipality had no recourse to restrict this offensive activity.”
Mayor Clumpus noted that in Meaford, bylaws are enforced after a complaint has been received from a citizen, which would initiate an investigation.
“Our by-laws are enforced on a written complaint basis which will be investigated by a bylaw officer with the goal of compliance. After all else fails, this bylaw will provide the 'teeth' to move to the next steps to resolve the issue,” Clumpus explained.
The approval of the bylaw, and the public's reaction to it, has given council candidates ammunition for criticizing the current council, but the mayor says that some of the candidates have misinterpreted the intent of the bylaw.
“The intent of this bylaw was not to restrict respectful use but rather to deter the activity that negatively impacts the safety and enjoyment for all using our public spaces,” Clumpus explained. “There is a misconception that this bylaw has been hastily put together; however, the reality is that the issue has been under review for almost a year in response to residents’ complaints. It is disconcerting to hear now that this intent is being disparaged and deliberately misinterpreted by some candidates.”
Asked if Meaford residents should be concerned about not being able to use municipal parks this coming winter, Clumpus offered an emphatic no.
“NO! Respectful use of parks and public spaces by the 99.9% of users will continue as always,” assured Clumpus. “Play for everyone is so important to our health and well-being all year round. We recognize that and want our residents and visitors to play safe, to enjoy nature and the amenities we are so lucky to have and to be respectful and protective of public spaces. Memorial Park and the Georgian Trail are not included in this by-law.”
Clumpus also said that she expects the bylaw to be revisited at the November 5 meeting of council.
“In response to what we hear from the public, there will be a notice of motion to revisit this by-law in November. I welcome this and encourage public comments during question period at the first opportunity on Monday, November 5, 3 p.m. at the Council chambers,” Clumpus said.