Barrie’s Riverwood Park could have its own parking lot by 2022’s end if community gardens are built there.
City councillors gave initial approval to adding the parking lot, which could cost about $35,000, to the capital budget Tuesday night. Council will vote on final approval of the lot, and the remainder of the operating/capital budget, at its Jan. 25 meeting.
Deputy Mayor Barry Ward, also the Ward 4 councillor representing this area of the city, noted Riverwood has a playground, busy tennis courts and a soccer field.
“People who drive to it now are asked to park in the Kozlov Centre parking lot… or on the adjoining streets, which the residents are not crazy about,” Ward said. “And next week there’s a town hall meeting to consider moving the Sunnidale community garden to this location and I think we’ve just reached a breaking point.
“We have to admit a parking lot is needed in this park. There’s lots of space for it over on Kozlov Street,…and we’ve got money in the budget for parking lot expansions," he added.
The city’s parking lot improvement program has $75,000 for this year, $50,000 in 2022. City staff said a granular parking lot, with 10 to 12 spots, at about $3,500 a spot, would cost approximately $35,000.
“I don’t think it’s right for the city to keep building infrastructure in parks and not build a parking lot for people to park,” Ward said.
“People cannot park on Kozlov Street, it’s a no-parking street.”
But Coun. Mike McCann said there’s a better solution.
“Wouldn’t people park in the Kozlov Mall? Isn’t there a lot of parking there?” he said. “Maybe we could strike a deal with the Kozlov Centre that would be a fraction of the cost for maybe a year or two, have designated parking areas, 10 to 20 spots would be plenty.
"I’d like to see that park green, not covered in concrete," he added.
Mayor Jeff Lehman questioned that plan.
“When you go to a community garden, you’ve got a trunk full of stuff,” he said. “Walking that across Kozlov Street, and then across the park…”
McCann also proposed a grassy drop-off area in Riverwood, for unloading, before parking at Kozlov Centre.
Ward said that would only work with a crosswalk or pedestrian crossing, which could cost $150,000 to $160,000.
“It’s getting ridiculous,” he said. “It’s a small, dirt parking lot, not paved; it takes, tops, maybe 0.5 per cent of the park, maybe less.”
Ward said there’s already a curb cut for vehicles to access the park to an area beside the tennis courts with a driveway in it, where the parking lot could go.
Coun. Sergio Morales said he agreed with the plan to park at Kozlov Centre.
“Coun. McCann is so dead-on on this one. There is parking (at the Kozlov Centre) that is never at full capacity,” he said. “Ideologically, every park and community garden and play structure that we create should have parking… but when this park was designed, it never had community gardens.
“Community gardens are about sustainability, right? Environmental, community engagement, food security? A parking lot would be destroying a significant percentage of the park. Let’s get innovative,” Morales said.
But a majority of councillors agreed with Ward.
“I hate parking lots, but I think it’s an accessibility issue,” said Coun. Keenan Aylwin.
“Every other community garden in the city of Barrie has a parking lot, every one of them,” Ward said. “And it just seems strange we are proposing a community garden where there isn’t one.
“If you are asking people to come to a park for anything, you should provide parking for them.”
When it came to a vote, Ward’s motion passed unanimously.