Understanding the Parks and Facilities By-Law

full bike rack

Shared use and enjoyment of parks

Peterborough, ON - City Council approved a Parks and Facilities By-Law at a Special General Committee meeting and Council meeting on August 12, 2019. The intention of the Parks and Facilities By-Law is to balance uses to ensure the shared public use and enjoyment of public parks and facilities and the protection of the natural environment. The By-law clarifies the expectations for shared used and enjoyment of parks, putting them into a legal document.

View the staff report from August 12, 2019

Some key points in the proposed By-law

When the lights go out (Section 10)

Currently, lights in public parks are normally scheduled to automatically turn off at 11 p.m. Basically, parks close at 11 p.m. – as much as any open space can really be closed. The new by-law states that parks are closed between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., except for approved events or when people are passing through a park on a trail or pathway.

Activities requiring a permit (Sections 12 and 13)

Currently, anyone who wants to sell or advertise food, drinks, merchandise, and services in City parks and facilities needs permission for those activities; that's still the case under the new by-law.

Want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage in a City park? That requires a permit, which is what happens now when there are festivals or events in parks that include alcohol.

Want to set off fireworks or have an open-air fire in a park? You’ll need permission from the City to do that.

Want to use sport fields for organized league play? You’ll need to get permission to use sport fields for that activity. That’s how it currently works too – leagues rent the fields. Why do they require permission? Organized league play is an exclusive use of a public space for a period of a time. It’s an appropriate use of parks and facilities, but it needs to be scheduled and regulated. And there are times when people shouldn't be on sport fields, such as when they're too wet in the spring and could be damaged by heavy use.

Another activity in parks requires the permission of the City is using a public address system or large speaker system. Someone using a large speaker system in a public park is likely affecting someone else’s enjoyment of that public space. Before they go setting up that public speaker system, they would need to get permission.

Setting up a structure, hut or tent in a public park also requires permission from the City. A structure, hut or tent occupies, either temporarily or longer term, space that’s for the shared use or enjoyment of the public.

Activities subject to specific rules (Section 14)

The City may establish conditions or restrictions for some activities that take place in public parks to ensure their shared use and enjoyment and to protect the natural environment.

Section 14 of the by-law lists activities that are permitted but that may be subject to conditions or restrictions for the benefit of all who use parks and to protect the natural environment.  Here are some examples of activities and reasons that the City may consider putting in place conditions or restrictions on those uses of parks:

  • Taking a boat through a park, launching a boat, or putting your boat on the shore or beach in a park but avoiding areas where people swim;
  • Cooking food, which could be as a simple as where cooking food is allowed in parks;
  • Playing sports, which could include designating some areas for sports while other areas of parks are for passive use for other people;
  • Riding a bicycle, for example bicycles shouldn’t be used on sport fields;
  • Skateboarding, rollerblading or roller skating, which could be designated activities in some park areas and prohibited in other park areas;
  • Swimming, wading or bathing, such as where and when those activities can occur in public parks;
  • Using a motorized vehicle but restricting their use to parking lots and driveways; and
  • Using a model airplane, helicopter, drone, rocket or boat but restricting the hours during which they may be operated, the places where they can be operated and other potential conditions and restrictions for their safe operation.

These activities can take place in public parks but could be subject to conditions and restrictions.

When putting up a tent in a park wouldn’t require a permit

There’s an exception to the rule that would require the permit to put up a temporary structure, hut or tent in a park.

While the City provides shelter and housing services with the support of Peterborough County, the province and the federal government, there may be times when the number of available shelter beds is less than the number of individuals in need of shelter. In this case, the proposed by-law gives the City’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) the authority to allow people to put up temporary structures, huts or tents in a designated area in a park without a permit.

If the City allows tents in parks, it will set conditions, such as where the tents could be put up, how much space needs to be between tents for fire safety precautions, and how long the tents could stay up.

Consultation with Arenas, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee

Council directed that City staff consult with the Arenas, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and report back to Council by January 31, 2020 on any potential changes to the by-law.

Arenas, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee is considering the by-law at its meeting on Tuesday, November 26, 2019.