15 Jan It starts with brainstorming
Effort underway to make Parry Sound cyclist, pedestrian friendly
Parry Sound North Star
By Stephannie Johnson
PARRY SOUND – Making Parry Sound an active community is a goal many local organizations want to see come to fruition.
At a meeting last month, representatives from Georgian Bay Biosphere, the Downtown Business Association and the Parry Sound Active Transportation Committee provided town council with a citizens’ update on the 8-80 Cities Initiative.
The non-profit organization, 8-80 Cities, based out of Toronto, is dedicated to contributing to the transformation of cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit parks and public places.
The organization’s approach is to engage communities and their people across a number of sectors to inspire the creation of cities that are easily accessible, safe and enjoyable for all.
Last year the organization’s executive director, Gil Penalosa, came to Parry Sound to speak about the initiative and the positive changes Parry Sound could make.
“The initiative took form many months ago under Parry Sound’s hosting of the Ontario Small Urban Municipalities Conference with a keynote speaker (Penalosa), talking about planning active and inclusive communities,” said Becky Pollock, of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve office. “We held a public forum in the fall to talk about how to build a better Parry Sound by bringing partners together to host Gil Penalosa to come back to speak about not only what’s happing in cities around the world, but communities as close as North Bay, Nippissing and Wasaga Beach that are becoming more mobile, inclusive and accessible.”
While here, Penalosa was taken on a bike tour of the town, showing him the community’s trails, downtown assets, and new school construction.
Pollock said 8-80 Cities fits with the town’s other initiatives, not just its strategic priorities, but also its Trails Master Plan development, the waterfront committee and the Parry Sound Area Active Transportation group.
Another meeting was held in November, Pollock said, where about 30 people came together under the four themes of walking, public spaces, open streets and cycling.
William Beatty Public School children were also involved in discussions regarding public spaces and parks.
“They talked about what they would like to see in the parks in Parry Sound,” said Downtown Business Association executive administrator Susan Hyrcyna. “They had some really good ideas about making the parks more year-round with different events – snowshoeing, skiing…getting more involved with Snowfest. A big concern for the kids was safety. One of their suggestions was better lighting in the parks and more OPP presence. They even suggested the OPP do more surprise visits at the parks, which might help eliminate some of the drugs and undesirable characters hanging around.”
Central route closure
Another idea was to close the town’s central route, as it changes from Bay Street, to James and William Street, from the waterfront to St. Peter’s School, on the second Sunday of each month, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Close the street to the cars and open it to the people and if the street’s there, they will come,” Hyrcyna said. “They will bike and they will rollerblade and hockey tournaments break out and people will bring their yoga mats and hopefully it will be a big success.”
Parry Sound Bikes co-owner Aleesha Mullen said she hopes the town’s Trails Master Plan will address cycling links that are missing within the town; specifically a loop that would travel through town and connect to the Rotary Algonquin Fitness Trail.
“But unfortunately in terms of cycling or for pedestrian use, to get from point A to point B in Parry Sound is difficult. That loop would connect the fitness trail and really allow you to travel through Parry Sound,” Mullen said.
She also suggested the town could host special events including rodeos and bike-to-school events
“We know there’s work that has to be done in terms of cooperating municipalities and in terms of funding, but the Active Transportation committee is willing to move that forward with support from the 8-80 group,” she said.
Sub committees for the four main areas – walking, public spaces, open streets and cycling – will continue to meet with town staff to help make their visions a reality.