07:47:22 pm on
Thursday 25 Jul 2024

Losing the Village Perk
David Simmonds

Councilor Mike Harper showed, at his Town Hall meeting in January, that he is adept at juggling. He ran a brisk two-hour meeting covering many bases, including the great clear garbage bag experiment, the future of the Wellington Town Hall, the water supply issue, with its $100 million cost estimate, the offloading of the empty corner store, the need to bolster the thinning ranks of local volunteers, the obligation of the County to provide stewardship of Wellington beach and the status of property development in the village. Most left the meeting content they had an opportunity to air their views. 

Harper on village traffic.

There was one other subject that Harper covered. That was traffic in the village. The related issues with traffic are safety and congestion were also on his agenda.

On the safety front, Mike Harper announced traffic speeds would soon be reduced to 40 kilometers per hour along the core of downtown Main Street; that a pedestrian crossing would be installed on Main Street near the post office and CML Snider school; that it would no longer be possible to turn onto Main Street form West Street. These are all positive changes.

On the congestion front, Harper suggested cars pay for the privilege of parking in downtown Wellington, but with a twist. Residents, of Wellington, would be exempt from paying. Apparently, some other jurisdictions have adopted this two-tier scheme and it is technically possible to distinguish visitor cars from local cars. 

This suggestion needs more debate, as one can readily imagine the difficulties. Should free parking be extended to all Country residents or restricted to those who live in Wellington? Where do the metropolitan Wellington boundaries lie? A sixth generation County-raised senior now lives in Belleville, but still considers herself a local: who is going to want to get into a traffic ticketing fight with her? A County resident buys his car in Trenton; does this mean that he is not local?

Suggested parking fees targeted to tourists?

What of the average tourist, with no County connection that is squarely in the sights of the parking charge? How is he or she going to feel about being charged a fee someone else is not? She or he could take away a negative message about the County and tell his or her neighbours and friends how she or he feels.

If Wellington County residents get their parking free while others must pay, what will they come to expect. That they can cut into lineups at ice cream parlours? That they have the exclusive right to walk on the sunny side of the street?

I would prefer not to have to fish for change every time I have to stop by the hardware store for five minutes to pick up a carton of milk. Free parking is one of the perks of living in a village. We must live without the vast array of amenities offered in Picton residents, free parking in Wellington seems like a satisfactory bargain.

Is traffic congestion really such a problem in Wellington that we need to address it by instituting paid parking? Congestion is largely a summer Saturday phenomenon brought about by the success of the Wellington market: traffic is parked for a few hours all along Main Street together with several of its feeder streets. Some fix, which is oriented to that specific problem, such as having a shuttle to the Wellington Arena parking lot, would be better than a paid parking regime. To the extent that all-day parkers add to the congestion, that could be fixed by enforcement of a two-hour limit and provision of all-day parking facilities on the outskirts of the village.

Councilor Harper has suggested that the prospect of paid parking in Wellington is better thought of as part of an overall tourist plan for the County, a major goal of which would be to get tourists to pay more for the wear and tear that they take on the County’s resources. Among the items to be looked at are charging for parking in both Bloomfield and Wellington, as well as for the use of boat launches and marinas. I wish council luck in developing its plan; making people pay things they once didn’t have to is no fun.

Even more money from tourists.

I can see the day when the village perk of free parking gives way to the broader objective of raising money from tourists. I’ll mark that day by shedding a small tear. If parking charges there must be, I’d sooner be placed on an equal footing with visitors and pay for my parking rather than benefit from a privilege not afforded to others.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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