Nearly 20 Harrison businesses have come together to petition the number of barbecues and tents on the beachfront this year.
In a petition presented to council Monday (Sept. 9), the businesses asked council members to consider restricting barbecues and tent use on the beaches.
“Lately we have noticed that is has been affecting food-related businesses due to the heavy volume of barbecue usage on the beach,” the petition reads. “We as a business community would like to suggest the village have a designated area for the barbecue users.”
The businesses who signed the petition are largely restaurants along the waterfront, although other restaurants and waterfront-based retail stores also signed.
“The traffic on Esplanade is held up sometimes because it takes three guys to lift the full-sized barbecue that’s come off their deck, to put it on the beach,” mayor Leo Facio said. “It’s definitely a situation where I agree with the businesses. I think they’ve been very patient over the years in regards to this whole issue.”
Currently, only propane, butane or natural gas barbecues are permitted on the beach — wood, charcoal and briquette barbecues are prohibited at all times. Camping in parks or on the beach is not allowed, but visitors can set up shade tents or canopies temporarily.
During council, staff offered six potential options for limiting barbecue and tent usage: restricting barbecues to one area, like Rendall Park; restricting barbecue use to areas with barbecue pedestals; limiting the size of barbecues to the size of the pedestals; prohibiting barbecue use entirely, unless on private property; limiting the size of sun shades to four feet high by six feet wide; and prohibiting all tents.
Council didn’t make a decision on any of these options during Monday night’s meeting, and instead referred the petition back to staff for more information. However, they did share concerns about what restrictions, or lack thereof, could do to the village.
“The business are suffering,” Councillor Ray Hooper said. “When you see groups of 20 or 30 people turn up with, I don’t mean just with small butane bottles, but they’re taking a 100 pound bottle out of the car. And they’re just there all day long.”
He recommended that barbecues be restricted to Rendall Park, to help increase turnover on the beachfront for others. He also said that parking spots should be time restricted, for the same reason.
Councillor Michie Vidall also spoke about the need for turnover on the beach, and noted that barbecues were often being set up on memorial benches, which was a fire concern.
Councillor Samantha Piper was concerned that limiting barbecues to Rendall Park could create safety concerns for pedestrians.
“We’d have to anticipate … extra foot traffic mixed in with the flow of the boat launch traffic which, to no fault of the boat launch operator, the driver behaviour in that area can often be aggressive,” she said.
She also shared concerns that restricting shade tents would be a health concern for visitors, particularly as there are few places to get out of the sun on the waterfront.
For councillor Gerry Palmer, who appeared at council after suffering a heart attack early last week, there is no one right response.
“I do see the concerns of the businesses,” he said. “It doesn’t make it easier when you’re competing with a bunch of people who can have the same view and the same joy as your customers sitting in front of your restaurant.”
He suggested that barbecues be restricted to the east side of Memorial Hall.
But, it was also important to him that restrictions don’t limit families who want to come visit.
“We have something that we want to market, and we can’t only market it to wealthy people,” he said.