North West River cracking down on beach parking

Derek Montague
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Vehicles can be fined, towed, if rules aren’t followed

Ever since North West River’s bridge was completed in 1980, giving others in the Upper Lake Melville area greater access to the small community, beach parking in the town has been an issue.

Sgt Chris Hastie (right) and Mayor Art Williams stand on a stretch of Portage Road, which leads to North West River’s beach. The road is so narrow that, when vehicles park on either side, it can obstruct emergency vehicles from getting through.

Each summer, people park their vehicles on the beach, and on the side of the narrow roads leading to the beach. And every beach season, the town council is worried about what could happen in an emergency situation.

“The roads leading to the beach are a problem because North West River being the oldest community in Upper Lake Melville area, our roads started off as paths,” said North West River Mayor Art Williams. “Our roads in town are very, very narrow. And when you have people parked, even on one side of the road, and you have trucks as big as our fire truck trying to get down through, that creates a problem.”

“We welcome everybody to come to our beach, we want people to come to our beach. But, in saying that, we also want to make it safe for the residents who live on the beach down there.”

Once again, the town has put up large signs near the beach, telling people where they cannot park. They also put a sign up at an intersection, telling people that the designated beach parking area is at the old airstrip.

But, just in case the signs don’t work, the RCMP will be helping the town enforce the regulations strictly this summer.

“The RCMP will be enforcing the North West River traffic regulations, which state that no person shall be permitted to drive and park their vehicle on the beach … without written permission from the council,” said Sgt Chris Hastie of the Sheshatshiu RCMP detachment.

“These signs are well-marked, they’re quite large and people are asked to respect the area that says ‘no more parking past this point.’”

The weekend of June 28-29 was the first test for the RCMP and the Town of North West River. It was a hot two days and, predictably, people flocked to the beach.

Williams, who lives on the end of Portage Road, right next to the beach, noticed that a lot of people were paying attention to the signs. Still, there were others who parked at the beach or on the sides of one of the narrow roads. In total, the RCMP handed out four fines.

“This weekend, vehicles were still not listening or following these basic signs and were parking past the point where they are prohibited to do so,” said Hastie.

Although Hastie couldn’t say how much each of the tickets were, he did say these illegal parking tickets can range from $50 to $1,000.

Williams said that using strict enforcement is a new method of dealing with the problem. Due to the town’s small population — less than 600 — it can’t afford to have its own enforcement officer.  And since the local RCMP detachment is responsible for fighting crime in two communities — Sheshatshiu and North West River — the mayor understands that only so much time can be dedicated to parking issues.

“We had no way of enforcing the beach (regulations) in previous years. We still don’t have a municipal enforcement officer. We rely on the RCMP to do that for us,” said Williams.

“We understand that our parking is low (on the priority list), everybody understands that.”

But Hastie said the RCMP would be dedicating regular patrols on hot beach days, to make sure there is no illegal parking or unruly behaviour.

Fines aren’t the only possible repercussion that can happen for parking illegally at or near the beach. If the RCMP feels that a vehicle may be obstructing an emergency vehicle from entering the area, the vehicle may be towed.

Williams is confident that beach-goers will get used to the rules and regulations this year. One f the problems is convincing people that the distance from the airstrip parking lot and the beach isn’t that far.

“I think what’s going to happen is, when people get used to the new parking lot, up on the airstrip, and realize that the town only wants to be able to have access to the beach for emergency situations, then people will start to abide by the rules and regulations,” said Williams.

“It’s probably only a four or five minute walk from the parking lot that we have up on the airstrip, down to the beach. And when you go outside, and if you went to PEI and Ontario to their beaches, you don’t park on the beach. They have designated parking lots.”

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: North West River, Upper Lake Melville, Portage Road Ontario

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Recent comments

  • NWR
    July 03, 2014 - 10:43

    This is by no means fixing the parking problem on the beach its moving the problem further up the road and at the same time people are parking in front of fire hydrants. So how does this solve anything??