LAKE OF BAYS — Boaters looking for a place to park overnight will need to think things through this year, at least if they’re parking in Lake of Bays township.
Municipal staff there will be posting signs throughout the township later this month, pointing out that the township’s docks and parking lots are day use only. Any boats, trailers or vehicles left on site between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. can be towed away.
“If you leave a boat, car or trailer there, we’re going remove it,” said Steve Watson, chief bylaw officer for the township. He said there will be provisions made for emergencies such as breakdowns – “we’re going to use common sense,” he said – but cautioned that claiming you didn’t see the sign won’t be accepted as an excuse.
The new approach has its roots in a long-standing controversy regarding Norway Point on Lake of Bays, a boat launch and parking area that was being used for long-term parking by island residents. Following a lengthy and sometime heated debate over what constituted fair use, a debate which lasted for several years, township council decided to bring in a sweeping new bylaw in 2010. The rules were simple, with few exceptions: no overnight use in any park.
The bylaw replaced a bewildering patchwork of old rules that were hard to track and nearly impossible to enforce, said Watson. One park alone had three separate sets of rules, and in a township with as many as 50 parks, docks and waterside parking lots, the confusion was immense.
Enforcement was also a challenge, he said. Typically, a boat or trailer would sit for days before anyone became annoyed enough to complain. “Then we’d have to observe that it was there for 72 hours before we could act,” he said. “It’s much easier now.”
There are a handful of exceptions. Camp Lake, for example, is a small lake with water-access-only cottages and no marina, so longer term parking is permitted there. At a heavily-attended council meeting in April, councillors voted to allow 72-hour parking for cars (but not for trailers or boats) in a limited number of spots at Rabbit’s Bay and Norway Point.
Other situations are still being dealt with, such as Moot Lake, where – as of press time – staff were preparing to recommend giving residents until the end of the summer to find new parking arrangements for their boats.
Even with the old bylaws, Watson said it was possible to remove boats and vehicles that were being left on township property, although in the past decade he said there have only been eight boats and eight cars towed from waterfront sites.
The issues caused by overnight parking vary considerably, depending on the location that’s being discussed. In some places the challenge is that old boats have been abandoned on shore, creating a cluttered and unsightly scene. “We’re going to clean up at Camp Lake next week,” Watson said. “We’ve got three derelict boats there, a trailer, a barbecue… Someone sells a cottage, forgets about it, and then it sits there for ten years.”
In other places – such as downtown Baysville – the concern is late night boat traffic and the noise it causes for residents near the water. “We can’t govern noise on the water,” Watson said. Limiting late night dock use is one way of limiting the amount of late night boat traffic.
In still other areas, the challenge has to do with a shortage of parking spots on land.
Regardless of the issue, boaters and drivers who flout the bylaw can expect to be ticketed and possibly towed. “If the parking lot’s full, the parking lot’s full,” he said. “If the parking lot’s full in downtown Bracebridge and you park on the sidewalk instead, you know what’s going to happen.”