Whose Beach Is It Anyway?
Private versus public use of beaches in Ontario has created much debate and controversy throughout the years. This debate has firmly landed on our shores and has been hotly talked about and is a contentious issue for beach and non beach owners alike.
As your community association representing the entire area and not just the beach properties, we (CICA) thought it was time to weigh in on the subject.
Our opinions are not necessarily legal ones, more of what the bulk of our members would want in a perfect world.
I think we would all agree that we wish everybody would get along and just enjoy what we have. But we don’t live in a perfect world and there are many factors at play.
We would start with saying that we do agree that the private lots are just that. Private.
Technically we believe those owners do have the right to limit access to their properties.
That being said, Ipperwash has had a long history with the beach being shared and enjoyed by everybody.
Once a precedent has been established, it’s very difficult to enact change. So while the beach owners have the right to block access to their properties, we’re not convinced this is the best approach.
For sure, beach owners have legitimate complaints. Large groups of people on their property, not giving them a reasonable amount of space for their own enjoyment. Tents are erected, garbage is left behind, music is being played etc. I think we would all agree this is unreasonable.
Some of our members rent out cottages on the beach and want their guests to enjoy what they pay a premium for. Beachfront properties are double and triple the price and property taxes are also much higher..
So we get it. But creating a fortress or having to run down to the beach to ask people to leave can’t be the answer. Surely no one can get any enjoyment from being angry and having to confront people all day long.
So before we offer any solutions to the issue, let’s look at some things that contribute to the problem.
The main contributing factor as we see it, lies with the public parking lots and beach areas now maintained by Infrastructure Onario. They have overseen these properties since the MNRF relinquished their ownership of these lands a number of years ago.
While some basic services are provided, the parking lots are in bad shape, washroom facilities are more than inadequate and garbage removal and the number of receptacles are lacking.
There doesn’t appear to be any rules or enforcement of any kind.
It is our hope that Lambton Shores would take over as stewards of these lands. If not, our goals for these lands would be as follows for whomever ultimately takes control.
To limit the number of people using the beach, a density study needs to be taken. It could easily be established how many people the public areas can support.
If the number lets say was 500 ( hypothetical) and the average number of people coming in by car was 2 per car only 250 spots for cars should be allowed. The actual number would be less than that as many people walk to the beach.
Additionally, parking should be paid using automated parking machines as Grand Bend uses.
Then, we need bylaw enforcement ticketing on a regular basis.
Lastly, signage needs to be improved indicating that the public should only use public areas. The public beach areas need to be delineated with signage and actual posts or markers on either side of the public area.
These steps should really help with the crowds and resulting issues.
The problem is we just don’t know when this will happen. We have been reaching out to our local MPP with very little feedback and no one from Infrastructure Ontario has anything to say on the matter. We will continue to present these concerns to them.
To find a solution that will please everyone is a nearly impossible task. Hopefully positive change will come. We will continue to advocate for change at all levels of government.
Keeping in mind these beach issues are only a problem for 30-40 days a year, let’s all be respectful of each other and care for the beach as it’s the heart and soul of Ipperwash.