Open Streets cut back to five days this summer as council mulls event’s future Town to seek feedback from businesses, visitors and nearby residents

KINGSVILLE — Kingsville council has voted to reduce the number of days set aside for Open Streets this year.

Instead of the seven days proposed by town administration, Open Streets will be held on five Saturdays during the summer — July 8, 15 and 29 and Aug. 19 and 26.

Open Streets has seen a steady decline in size since 2020 when it was held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was reduced to two days, Friday and Saturday, then one day, Saturday. 

The first Open Streets was held to help restaurants and bars which were forced to close by the Ontario government during the COVID pandemic.

Normally there are eight Saturdays devoted to Open Streets during the summer. 

The proposal from administration eliminated the Open Streets date on Labour Day weekend.

Coun. Thomas Neufeld, who favoured reducing Open Streets to two days, said the event may have reached the point where the negatives outweigh the positives. 

“I understand why it was put in place during COVID and I think it was well-received at the time. I guess my question is … perhaps this event has run its course,” he said.

Coun. Tony Gaffan said there is a divide between those businesses — bars and restaurants — which benefit from Open Streets and downtown retailers who see no financial advantage to closing Main Street and parts of Division Street from 4 to 10:30 p.m.

Gaffan was one of several councillors who said council needs more data to determine the long-term future of the event. In asking for more information, he mentioned the residential streets — Pearl and Beech — used to divert traffic and the need for more input from affected homeowners.

“My problem is we’re making a decision knowing there are people who go to (Open Streets) and love it and people who are around it who don’t love it.”

Deputy Mayor Kimberly DeYong said council needs to do an Open Streets review in the fall once the event is over. She also said Open Streets needs an identity.

“Let’s get together in September, October and say, OK, what do we want summer in Kingsville to look like. It may be a bunch of stuff and it may not be Open Streets anymore.

“This is almost painful but we don’t have an identity for this event…. Whatever ends up today, we need to have a good conversation in the fall,” she said.

She said this year’s event is shaping up to be a “mishmash” — a word used often at Monday’s meeting. 

Mayor Dennis Rogers agreed the event needs to be better defined. 

“I could see this being tremendously successful in the long-term (for) Kingsville. But I do think we have to define what the event is, and I think data is great. I’m was very happy to hear data collection is going to be a major part of Open Streets this year.”

He said any information gathering should include input from residents on Beech and Pearl streets.

Karen Loney, the town’s manager of recreation and special events, said the town will make QR codes available to businesses so users can provide feedback. And she said the town is  purchasing software to allow more immediate input from the public.

Council also approved an Open Streets-style event in Cottam on July 22. 

The dates selected for Open Streets in Kingsville will not conflict with the event in Cottam or Hogs for Hospice and the Greenway Jam, both held in August.

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