Pave paradise, put up a parking lot…

August 12, 2009

Guelph Mercury, 12/08/09GoldieMill1

Prepare for the occupation! I’ll bring the lemonade.

Forget the Hanlon Creek Business Park protestors and their sleepover in the woods. That’s old news.

Tomorrow night, residents concerned about the city’s plans to cut back Goldie Mill Park to make way for an expanded parking lot for 10-year-old violinists will meet to express their concerns.

At issue is a project that would appease parents who are tired of walking a minute or two to see their kids perform at the Guelph Youth Music Centre. They want a bigger parking lot, and they want it now, dammit.

But people who live around the Goldie Mill Park and its historic flour mill ruins are appalled by the idea of cutting down mature trees in a downtown park to make way for more pavement. The current lot has space for about 35 vehicles; the proposed expansion would almost double that.

They’re also concerned about plans to pave the gravel lot, which they say would expose the nearby Speed River to more pollutant runoff from vehicles.

And as far as I can tell, unlike the professional protestors shipped in from London or Hamilton to camp out in Hanlon Creek, the people upset over plans for the Goldie Mill parking lot actually live here. How novel.

As concerned Guelph citizens often do, they’ve created a website,, and are spreading the word about a public meeting in the parking lot tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. They’re passing around letters and passing out the emails and phone numbers of city staff and councillors.

Meanwhile, the city says it is revising plans for the parking lot in response to protests, but can’t say yet what that means.

So, for now, residents’ concerns remain the same. They feel there has been little opportunity for public input. Indeed, most residents found out about the expansion plans after the project was put out to tender. Construction crews are to begin working on the site next Monday morning.

The residents want to know why this project feels so rushed. Ward 2 councillor Ian Findlay, who organized a meeting about the parking lot last week, said it was “really regrettable” people hadn’t been given an earlier chance to express their concerns.

What I’d like to know is how necessary this work is, especially when the city is also looking at doubling the number of cars that can park along Cardigan Street, which runs in front of the music centre?

How? Simple. They plan to turn that block of Cardigan Street into a one-way street, allowing cars to park on both sides of the road. Imagine that — a cheap, effective way to increase parking for the music centre without cutting down a single tree or paving over a single patch of park grass. Why this wasn’t proposed earlier is beyond me.

Even now, on the busiest of nights at the Guelph Youth Music Centre or during a packed Saturday wedding, there is parking available on the streets around the centre. People just have to walk a few hundred metres to their destination, heaven forbid.

Are all we so fragile that we all need parking immediately next to the building we’re planning to enter? Last time I checked, the city is not required to provide close parking to everyone who demands it.

This is, after all, a parking lot that already sits empty for most of the day. And this is in a city that is building three parking garages downtown in the coming years. There is under-used parking space all over this town.

Let’s hope the city’s revised plans for the Goldie Mill parking lot reflects what residents are saying about this project. Because surely we can come up with something better.

Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based freelance writer. His column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at, and past columns can be read at

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