Life’s a beach at Wilkins as residents win fight to save sandy turf

Parking pass pilot project for Barrie residents who live near beach areas

Residents will be able to make a splash at the beach at Wilkins Park in Barrie’s south-end.

There were nearly two dozen deputations at Monday’s city council meeting against the closure of the beach, which was a hidden gem up until last summer when during COVID-19 restrictions visitors discovered the shoreline, due in part to Wilkins being marketed on tourist sites and by word-of-mouth, which resulted in overcrowding on the sandy turf, garbage left behind and neighbourhood streets crowded with visitors parking their cars.

The city is going to “delist” Wilkins as a beach so people don’t jam the area looking for a place to dip their toes.

“This plan is going to be sustainable for the environment,” said Ward 10 councillor Mike McCann, who worked with city staff, residents and others to find a solution. “It’s going to be the best for the local residents because they are going to be able to walk the beach, they are going to be able to use the sand, and they are going to use the water and enjoy nature.”

Originally, the city was going to cut off access to the beach to naturalize the park and protect an environmentally sensitive area at Wilkins Park. A creek that flows into the lake will be fenced off as it is a spawning ground for minnows.

McCann also championed a Save the Turtles program at the park, which council supported, and he said there will be signage telling visitors not to interfere with the wildlife. McCann said the program is something that can be used for educational purposes by bringing school kids to the park.

There will continue to be signage on area streets near the park warning out-of-towners they will face parking fines and could see their vehicles towed.

McCann pushed to have the tow threat included on the signs.

Parking near beaches for Barrie residents only that was introduced last summer will continue, but there will be a new component, something that McCann asked for in Ward 10 and other councillors with beaches in their wards decided was worth testing out.

The parking pilot will allow people living near beach areas to obtain “guest passes” for friends and family so they will be able to park on the street without the risk of a fine and/or tow.

“Once we are allowed to visit our families again, and if there is a bar mitzvah, a wedding, a funeral, a birthday, and those occasions that families want to have parking passes so they can have their friends and family park for free,” explained McCann.

He said residents would get five one-day passes.

This would apply to residents in a specific area near beaches such as Wilkins Park, Dock Road, Johnson’s Beach, Minet’s Point Park and Tyndale Park.