"The traffic and goings-on at the park and on the lake are getting unbearable. Is there any possibility of closing the boat ramp? Right now, there is a motorcycle on fire on the lake."
This was included in an email, sent to the City of North Bay from one of a group of neighbours who live along Sunset Boulevard and Banner Avenue. They say they are at their collective wit's end with the constant traffic, noise and pollution from snowmobiles and other vehicles using the municipal boat launch located between their homes and Sunset Park.
They contend the little boat launch and the associated traffic in their residential area cannot withstand the commercial usage they are witnessing and, now, they are calling on the City of North Bay to close it. They say the narrow residential roads cannot safely accommodate the dozens, and on weekends, hundreds of vehicles driving along Sunset and Banner to gain access to Lake Nipissing.
The residents have noted the increase in traffic volume this year and have proposed it be diverted to lake access points in less residential areas, citing the Memorial Drive waterfront and Champlain Park at the end of Premier Road as two prime, uninhabited locations.
The launch has long been a winter access point to frozen Lake Nipissing for snowmobiles and vehicles towing ice fishing huts. The nearby homeowners say this winter has been far busier than any other they've experienced in the past, with the increase in volume, they believe, due to the pandemic and people having extra time on their hands to enjoy the great outdoors.
The neighbours point out they count ice fishing and snowmobiling among their favourite pastimes, too. They have been hoping the locals and visitors launching from Sunset Park would show a little more respect with their actions — especially nearest to the residential area.
Night after night, the Sunset neighbours say they struggle to get any sleep. They say the lake activity begins as early as 5 a.m. with the ice fishers and continues until 3 a.m. with the snowmobile racers. One neighbour observes the noise from modified exhaust systems and vehicles coming and going rarely stops, all within a few hundred metres of their houses.
With the increased volume of park users, comes increased nuisance by-law infractions. In another email to the City, the Sunset neighbours observe:
"It’s just another weekend of littering of beer cans, bottles, garbage, dead animals, air pollution, heavy machines idling, people loading and unloading with bright lights shining in our homes on the lakeside, up and down our street at high speeds, drinking and driving, vehicles just about hitting us in our own driveways, partying, yelling back and forth in front of our lakeside homes at all hours, fireworks being set off, tow trucks, flatbed transports, snowmobiles, ATVs up and down our road and on the lakeside of our homes and a huge parking lot on the lake off the boat ramp with people repairing their sleds, spills of oil, red engine fluid, human blood."
The neighbours add the situation does not allow them to enjoy the beauty of the lake as their view is of a man-made parking lot that hosts over 100 vehicles on the weekends. They cannot enjoy a quiet evening at home because of all the noise coming from the lake and the park. And, now, they are forced to stay home. They say they cannot list their homes on the market as their house values have surely depreciated due to the neighbourhood being overrun by snowmobiles. And, they fear they cannot easily be reached by emergency services on weekends when there are line-ups on the narrow road to access the boat ramp.
Sunset Park is the closest and most convenient lake access point for many vehicles and snow machines, and there is a tourism angle to its usage with the proximity to Lakeshore Drive accommodations. It is also a convenient launch point to reach Lake Nipissing's islands once the ice thickens and, locals will tell you is also the gateway to some prime nearby fishing spots.
Also, complicating matters is the area Sunset Park is located in is a multi-jurisdictional crossroads, so to speak. The North Bay Police Service and City of North Bay by-law officers, plus the Ontario Provincial Police and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry all are responsible for areas in and around the park, whether on land or water. This has been a source of frustration for the homeowners seeking a resolution as they feel their complaints are being passed off from agency to agency.
City Communication Officer Gord Young says, "This area, like all other lake access points to Lake Nipissing throughout the City, get busy each year around this time as the ice thickens and people start accessing the lake to fish, snowmobile and deliver ice huts.
"We are aware that there are residents in the area who have concerns. City bylaw has been conducting patrols in the area and we have been in contact with NBPS as well as OPP. NBPS will be patrolling this area (on land) and OPP will be alerting its snowmobile unit to patrol the area (on ice) since parking and other activities on the lake are not regulated by City. In addition, our parks department cleans the park daily."
The nearby residents add they are also unable to safely enjoy the park itself. They say, much like the traffic issues of speed and volume making driveway access unsafe on the street, snowmobiles travelling through Sunset Park make it unsafe to exercise or walk a dog in that area. Since the washroom facilities in the park are closed, the neighbours say it is not uncommon to see snowmobilers come in off the lake and relieve themselves in the park or nearby bushes.
The Sunset neighbours say, "We all have the right to enjoy our homes in a peaceful and safe matter. We need a solution to make it so everybody gets to enjoy the lake, not just the people fishing or sledding but also that live here, that bought lakefront property for peace and quiet."
One of them added, "I have been blessed to have lived on lakes and rivers my entire life. I grew up on Lake Nipissing. It’s my home and my roots. I spent 11 years living on Trout Lake and I never had to call the OPP, city police, by-law officer, MNRF, MOE. These safety issues, by-law infractions would never be tolerated on Trout Lake. Therefore, my question is why should residents of Sunset Boulevard deserve any less?"