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'Silver lining': Newmarket asking York Region to expand parking at forest trails

With residents of Newmarket flocking to nearby York Regional Forest trails, particularly on weekends, solutions to the parking shortage are needed, councillors say
Jan. 21, 2021
Alan S. Hale

So many hikers are out using public trails this winter, especially on the weekends, parking space at many of these facilities has become hard to find.

This is especially true for the more popular tracts of the York Regional Forest outside Newmarket, where parking can be so scarce that people have been forced to go elsewhere.

Mayor John Taylor said, in some ways, it's a good problem to have.

"If there is some silver lining to COVID-19, its that more people have been discovering the York Regional Forest, which has been an underutilized gem," he said.

Councillor Victor Woodhouse, a frequent user and proponent of the regional forest, noted the problem during Monday's council meeting and suggested that Newmarket approach the region about finding more parking spaces on nearby roads.

"I'm wondering if the region would be willing to do a pilot project that would allow for road shoulder parking. It could be done for relatively little expense on areas that are already level and near fence openings," he suggested.

Mayor John Taylor added that perhaps some partnering with nearby property owners who would allow their lands to be used for parking was another approach.

Regional Councillor Tom Vegh said he would work with Woodhouse and York Region staff to come up with a comprehensive proposal for the region that could help alleviate the overcrowding.

"I know the region does have long-term plans for this, so bringing them into the conversation will be important," said Vegh.

While the town and region work on a way to free up more parking, Woodhouse is encouraging residents to explore more of what the regional forest has to offer, and not just the tracts closest to their homes.

"There are many, many tracts, and Newmarket is closest to many of them. If you find one that's too busy, go look for others," said Woodhouse.