Sunday, July 28, 2013

Creative Solutions to Longboarding in Pelham

When Town Council recently prohibited skateboarding and longboarding on four sections of roads in Pelham, we acted to protect longboarder’s safety.

Town Staff and the Niagara Regional Police (NRP) brought their concerns to Council’s attention at our July 15 regular meeting. The NRP had received 37 calls (from 22 different individuals) about youth longboarding for hours-on-end on sections of Overholt, Elizabeth, Shoalts, and Effingham.

We learned that while our current Traffic & Parking Bylaw does prohibit “playing on roadways”, the bylaw is out-of-date and refers only to "roller skating" and "coastering" (whatever that was?).

Council decided to prohibit longboarding on those four road-segments and directed staff to draft an updated bylaw, to determine the cost to construct a longboarding run in the Riehl Skatepark, and to meet with youth and neighbours to develop creative solutions.

We met last Thursday with Pelham longboarders and parents, a concerned neighbour, the NRP, and Staff. We used our creative problem solving process to investigate “How might we work with the community to ensure the safety of youth long-(skate-) boarding on municipal streets?” After identifying 78 facts, the group developed 45 ideas, and settled on key ideas for Council’s consideration.

A multifaceted approach will be proposed:
close Overholt Road to vehicular traffic for the quarter-mile from Hansler to Pelham North; (It is anticipated that closing this infrequently-used section of road (with no driveways) to vehicle traffic (~30 cars per day) will be much more cost effective than constructing a run in the environmentally-sensitive Marlene Stewart-Streit Park.)
install two gates so that the road might still be used by local farmers, the fire service, and staff (for maintenance);
prohibit and establish fines for “recreational” longboarding on all other Pelham roads but allow “transportational” longboarding;
the Town and the user group enforce strict use guidelines – like mandatory helmets and pads, dawn-to-dusk usage, times for different ability levels, and a potential safety accreditation;
consider the installation of waste / recycling containers, a portable washroom, and a small, gravel parking area;
continue with the planned, small, novice longboarding area at the new Riehl Skatepark;
work with the user group for maintenance and to develop safety training / accreditation for novice longboarders;
youth immediately self-limited longboarding on Donahugh Drive to three-days-per-week for reduced hours.

“Recreational” Longboarding is the continual riding down and climbing up on a road for hours-on-end. This differs from "transportation" longboarding where a longboarder uses the road to travel from place-to-place. The Provincial Highway Traffic Act treats longboarders as “pedestrians” that must wear a helmet; longboarders weaving on roads could face Provincial charges.

I believe this proposal will help elevate safety and other concerns of longboarding in Pelham and I am very impressed with the group of youth with whom I met. Town Councillors and I are very interested in your feedback prior to our discussion at Council on August 12.

August 13 UPDATE:
Council received three presentations (two opposed and one in favour), 2 petitions, +500 form letters, and +35 other items of correspondence regarding this issue at our meeting last night.
Following receipt of these items, Council asked staff to conduct a creative problem solving session with key stakeholders before making a definitive decision regarding a safe home for recreational longboarding. 
Council also passed a motion that none of the longboarding options to be considered can include the permanent closure of any Pelham road – including Overholt.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Join Four Days of Summerfest!

Next weekend – Thursday, July 18 to Sunday, July 21 – I hope you will join in in the fun, art, food, music and great community spirit at the Third Annual Pelham Summerfest!

Summerfest started in 2011 as a one-day celebration following the lengthy reconstruction of Downtown Fonthill. It grew to a four-day festival in 2012 and welcomed more than 25,000 people. Building on previous years and improving all components, this year’s festival promises to be the best four days of free family fun yet!

Thursday, from 4 to 10 pm will be the “Summerfest Opener” when Summerfest will add even more to the already amazing weekly Farmers Market and Bandshell Concert. While Jim Wittle, known as “the Piano Man”, takes the bandshell stage, Summerfest will add Art in the Park – dozens of local artists showcasing their talents – and an artisan beer and a local wine garden. Thursday will also be the start of the Community Art Wall project.

Friday, from 4 to 11 PM will be Pelham Night of Arts & Teen Movie Night. This will be the time to celebrate art in all forms – from music to dance to dramatic to visual art. In addition to the Art in the Park, the stage will include live, local musicians and dramatists. Summerfest will also host a Teen Movie Night “under the arches” and outdoor patios in Downtown Fonthill will be open late.

Saturday, July 20th from 10 to midnight will be an action-packed, community day. Featuring more food and non-food vendors than previous years, Summerfest will provide a wide range of activities including buskers, a kid’s zone with more bouncers and entertainment, reptiles and a puppet theatre. The Main Stage will include Fonthill Music Academy and a Zumba challenge and will later feature Niagara bands. Local service clubs will run a beer garden under the arches and Art in the Park will continue with music on a second stage in Peace Park.

Sunday from 9AM to 2PM will include Art in the Park and Community Pancake Breakfast that will be prepared by the travelling Enbridge crew and that will include blues bands. Finally, you can work off those pancakes with a family fun walk.

On behalf of Council and the community, thank you to numerous sponsors and the 2013 Summerfest Committee for their vision, hard-work, and dedication! Thank you to Councillor Gary Accursi, chair; Todd Barber, from the Downtown Beautification Committee; Bea Clark, Pelham Active Transportation Committee; Kathleen Goodman, Pelham / Welland Chamber of Commerce; John Wink, Pelham Business Association; and Vickie van Ravenswaay, and other Town of Pelham staff.

I hope you and your family and friends will participate in this year’s Summerfest!

For more information, please check out

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Positive Step for a New Southern Hospital

On June 26, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati hosted a sign unveiling the “Future Site of the Niagara South Hospital: Serving Niagara” at the corner of Montrose and Lyons Creeks. The event also highlighted the generosity of the Grassl family who donated the 12 hectares of fully-serviced, shovel-ready land.

Some called the unveiling “distasteful” and “preposterous.”

Many others welcomed the announcement, calling it another “important step” in the process toward better health care.

You will recall that Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS in May 2012. He recommended building a new Southern Hospital and asked the six Southern Mayors and the Regional Chair to recommend a site.

Based on an analysis of population densities, Emergency call volumes, drive times, municipal infrastructure, NHS referrals, and Emergency Room usage, the Mayors and Chair unanimously suggested two geographic areas about eight kilometers apart – Lyons Creek / QEW and 406 / 140  – for the new hospital.

Dr. Smith further analyzed the two areas and, in his September 2012 final report, recommended that the NHS construct a new general acute care hospital at the Lyons Creek / QEW location. He also recommended developing two free standing Urgent Care Centres.

His report also showed that this plan would cost much less (for both operating and capital costs) and provide better, 21st century health care than all other options.

Earlier this spring, both the Niagara South Medical Society – representing Doctors in the Welland-area – and the Greater Niagara Medical Society – representing Niagara Falls area Doctors – supported Dr. Smith’s call for a new hospital and suggested speedy implementation at the recommended area.

While I believe that communities need more local health care options and services, the trends show that they will not be in the form of a hospital; that's why the Town is working with doctors who are developing new facilities and family health teams in both Fonthill and Fenwick.

For example, plans for the Fonthill Health Centre in the East Fonthill development area were announced at Town Council in May. The physicians / developers plan for the 30,000 to 40,000 square foot “one stop integrated health care building” to begin construction in 2014 and to open in 2015.

My trip from Pelham Town Hall to the Montrose / Lyons Creek location took only 20 minutes. Given the close proximity of the new Northern Hospital and of this future Southern Hospital for Pelham, I hope that each of us can embrace the NHS’s plans, and encourage the Ministry of Health to work toward construction as soon as possible.