The spike in parking penalties would be meant to fight rogue waterfall tourists who block roads, driveways and emergency vehicles.

Cathie Coward, The Hamilton Spectator
Parking was at a premium on this Sunday afternoon in September 2016 at Tiffany Falls in Ancaster where cars spilled out of the parking lot and onto the side of the road along Wilson Street.

The city is looking at jacking up parking penalties around Spencer Gorge to $250 — higher than anywhere else in Hamilton — to crack down on road-blocking waterfall tourists this year.

Dundas-West Flamborough Coun. Arlene Vanderbeek is pitching a council motion Wednesday to create a “special enforcement area” with a fine of $250 (early payment $200!) for illegal parking on all streets in Greensville. That’s the nearest community to the popular conservation area, which is a magnet for waterfall tourists and hikers bound for Dundas Peak.

A normal no-parking fine in the city is $33 with an early bird $26 payment option. Ignoring a no-stopping zone costs you $75, or $60 if you pay early.

“Hopefully, once a few unfortunate souls get a ticket, word will spread quickly,” said Vanderbeek, who inherited the Greensville area as councillor after the recent ward boundary change.

“Right now, a $26 ticket is just not working. For someone driving from Toronto, that is a cheap ticket.”

Hamilton started ramping up bylaw enforcement around waterfalls like Webster, Tews and Albion back in 2017 in response to a growing number of rope rescues as well as blocked roads and driveways.

That year, 3,600 parking-related tickets were handed out around those waterfalls. In 2018, more than 4,000 scofflaws were caught parking illegally — the majority around Webster’s and Tews.

But those penalties are not preventing “bedlam” on the streets near the conservation area, said Vanderbeek, who decided to visit the Greensville area on a sunny October weekend during the election campaign.

“There are still vehicles blocking emergency vehicles. There are still people parked in front of people’s driveways — or directly underneath actual no-parking signs,” she said.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority has tried to get a handle on spiking visitor numbers by banning weekend parking access at the waterfall areas between late April and early November.

Instead, it offers a shuttle service from nearby Christie Lake Conservation Area, which offers more parking. The shuttle starts up this year on the Easter weekend, with a $10-per-vehicle parking fee plus $5-per person for the shuttle.

But that means a family of five driving to the gorge could pay less in fines to park illegally than to take the legal shuttle, Vanderbeek noted. “Hopefully a higher fine will encourage people to just obey the law.”

Manager of parking enforcement James Buffett said if council signs off Wednesday on the special enforcement area in Greensville fines would be raised between mid-April and mid-November as a pilot.

He said $250 would be the highest such fine on the books in Hamilton aside from offences related to accessible parking. (Illegally parking in a disabled parking spot can cost you upwards of $300.)

It’s not clear how many illegal parking tickets go to out-of-town visitors compared to local residents. But a separate bylaw crackdown on fence-jumping trespassers at Albion Falls, for example, showed the vast majority of waterfall visitors came from the GTA.

Shuttle service to Webster, Tews Falls

What: Shuttle service provided by Hamilton Conservation Authority to Spencer Gorge when on-site parking is banned on weekends and holidays;

Where: Park at Christie Lake Conservation Area, 1000 Highway 5 West. Shuttle travels to Spencer Gorge, giving access to Webster and Tews Falls, Dundas Peak;

When: Service begins Easter weekend (April 19) at 9:30 a.m. Continues weekends into November;

Cost: $10 per vehicle parked, plus $5 per person. (Unless you have a HCA membership pass.)

More information: visit http://conservationhamilton.ca/shuttle/

Source: The Hamilton Spectator