St. Catharines residents will be able to buy a seasonal pass for beach parking throughout the summer

Photo by: Stanislaw Gregor

During the 2023 season, parking passes will be required when visiting Lakeside Park or Sunset Beach in St. Catharines.

The normal fee for a parking spot is set at $3 per hour, though residents of St. Catharines will be able to purchase a $15 digital seasonal pass permitting them to park at either location from May through September.

Parking fees were first implemented in 2021 for non-residents as a response to the large influx of beachgoers looking for a summer activity during COVID-19 lockdowns. Parking meters were installed and St. Catharines residents were offered free printed passes—but city hall suffered when the 14,607 residents who applied for the offer meant staff had to be transferred from other positions to process the wave of applications.

In 2022, $15 digital permits were implemented in hopes of preventing a similar outcome, with each household allowed to purchase a maximum of two passes. City staff found the system to be a huge improvement with permits taking only hours to send out digitally rather than the 14 days it would take to mail out each printed pass. The digital system also led to a far lower number of applications — 5,677— further lightening the strain on city staff when compared to the year prior.

The rule will return in 2023, with applications for residents opening in April.

St. Catharines Council voted on the motion on March 6, with varying opinions across its members. Councillor Kevin Townsend agreed that some people might be upset by the idea of a $15 parking pass, but stated that the majority of the population would be pleased there would be an overturn of parking spaces available at the beaches.

Councillor Bruce Williamson told The Standard that the parking turnover problem was not as large as others were making it seem, “we’ve artificially manufactured somewhat of a bureaucracy, or additional people involved, to deal with a problem that is not as bad as it’s made out to be.”

St. Catharines Mayor Mat Siscoe voted against the motion, saying to iHeartRADIO that the implementation of parking fees was simply meant as a response to the overwhelming crowds of beachgoers during the pandemic.

“I voted to get rid of paid parking,” said Siscoe. “I respect the arguments that were made, and I agree. Councillor Williamson made a good point; if we are charging for parking at the beaches, there are a lot of other places, based on those arguments, that we should charge for parking—but we wouldn’t do that.”

The digital parking pass system nearly pays for itself. 2023 costs are expected to be $69,996 with expected revenue at $68,772, leaving the system at a marginal revenue loss.

Those without a seasonal pass who park in the Lakeside Park lot will have a three-hour time limit, similar to last year. This time limit has been removed at Sunset Beach, where the maximum will be a $20 flat rate. Businesses within Port Dalhousie will be permitted to purchase two seasonal passes at the same price as city residents.

Also passed at the meeting was the motion to install a bike repair station at Sunset Beach, which will cost approximately $3,000.

More information on St. Catharines’ beach parking policies can be found here.

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