It struck me as I sat at a West Harbour Update meeting on James Street North in late October that Hamilton is shedding its old skin. Though attendance was meagre there was a fascinating cross section of characters. There were the quinoa eaters, the Earth Shoe wearers and sweater vesters. What defined their agendas was how far they were willing to walk to get to the waterfront.

At the meeting the city delivered the news that there’s going to be a parking crunch at the waterfront. When Pier 8 gets developed and the West Harbour becomes ever more popular some visitors will have to walk, bike or take public transit to the bay because the days of ample parking will be gone.

Right now there are plenty of spots where you can practically nose your car bumper up to the water’s edge. People love to sit in their cars near the shuttered Sarcoa restaurant and watch the waves.  Colour that pleasure gone.

Soon the machines will move in, services will be installed, shorelines revamped and acres of free parking will someday morph into waterfront shops, housing and parks.  Boaters docked at West Harbour face the prospect of walking with their food and booze many, many steps to load and unload. And somewhere the city will need to build a parking garage, but it won’t be enough to welcome all the water watchers used to their front row seats.

“Well, you’ve seen the last of me,” one perturbed gent told the assembled city staff. He lived on the mountain and described the hairy conniption he had during the Canada Day traffic jams at the waterfront.

Declaration-I live in the West Harbour area and those were mighty traffic tie ups. But no matter how much parking the city builds, it will never be able to  accommodate parking for big special events.

There were younger people at the meeting. They didn’t bat an eye at walking or biking to the harbour. They even understood that some people actually buy condos nowadays and are quite happy not to have a parking spot. Those new bike lanes on Bay Street with the traffic signs that look like Ikea kitchen installation instructions-they like those too.

As you get older and acquire joints made of titanium you just seem to get more entrenched and flummoxed about change. I drove to the market the other day and was mad I couldn’t find a parking spot. But hey-isn’t that what we wanted? More people out and about, walking, shopping and dining.

Hamilton is shedding some old ways, and becoming a big city, along the way we’ll lose the luxury of parking close to some of our favourite places, and grumble at every new bike lane.  Change isn’t always good and it’s inconvenient, but we can’t go back to when Hamilton was a national joke, when there were no parks on the waterfront, and the downtown was deserted.

Going to public meetings can be excruciating but it’s one way see where the city is headed and play a part in its direction.

Kathy Renwald

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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