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TBM will set up pop-up park to ease congestion on Thornbury’s main street

Leaning on lessons from last year, the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) has composed a plan for Bruce Street South in Thornbury as it prepares for another summer of COVID crowds and safety restrictions.

“We did take a lot of lessons learned from last year in the various configurations and trying to put forward some safety measures for the community,” said Shawn Carey, director of operations for TBM.

Last year, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, TBM installed concrete jersey barriers the full length of Bruce Street South, in order to allow for wider pedestrian walkways and social distancing requirements.

But, the local business community was not happy with the reduction in parking and the confusion that was caused. As such, the town revised the barriers to be positioned in front of only the businesses that wanted them.

This summer, in place of the jersey barriers the length of the street, TBM council has voted in favour of creating a community hub on Arthur Street West.

“Other municipalities, when they’re dealing with COVID, particularly last summer, have had lots of success with these pop-up, temporary parks or community open areas,” Carey said.

TBM will be creating a “pop-up” community space at 15 and 17 Arthur Street West, land that was purchased by the town last year and set to become a municipal parking lot.

“We’re in the midst of doing some design work for the permanent parking lot here. But in the interim, this could be a really useful site to establish a safe area for residents or people visiting the community,” Carey added.

The site will be levelled and town staff will work with the Grey Bruce Health Unit to develop a COVID-safe community space that will include hand washing stations, picnic tables and beautification items.

Staff are estimating the community pop-up space to cost a total of $15,000.

In addition, TBM will also be installing barricades around the Hester Street Parkette, which sits just off of Bruce Street South.

“This option looks at having barriers installed in the area that currently has no parking. And we would install it in a way such that we create a welcoming environment and we could look at some beautification around that as well,” said Carey.

Town staff estimate the cost of the Hester Street Parkette to be $300 per month for the barrier rentals and installation.

At a special meeting of council held on Monday evening, TBM council members approved both staff recommendations, which were also endorsed by the Thornbury Business Improvement Area (BIA) board.

“As a BIA, we have to keep in mind, not so much each individual business has concerns, but it’s the visitors safety. And we want to balance safety for the visitor with keeping the street as attractive as possible,” said George Matamoros, chair of the Thornbury BIA.

The only catch to leaving Bruce Street South without barricades - businesses will not be able to stage anything on the sidewalks, such as picnic tables, signs or flower pots.

However, according to Tony Poole, director with the Thornbury BIA, the majority of impacted businesses would prefer to lose sidewalk access in favour of parking access.

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“In the longer term, any kind of changes to traffic flow or issues of parking on Bruce Street, will need to be evaluated as relates to the business,” said Poole. “However, as it stands right now, there is a general concern by all businesses, that any reduction of parking on Bruce Street or in that immediate area would have a negative financial impact.”

TBM plans to have these initiatives installed before May Long weekend and removed following Thanksgiving weekend.
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