If you're behind the wheel of a car, don't bother trying to get into Rowntree Mills Park this summer.
All vehicles - with the exception of those belonging to members of groups that have already obtained permits to hold picnics and events - are being banned from the large park at Finch and Islington avenues under a controversial pilot project.
York West Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who tried the experiment last weekend and will now implement the immediate ban over the summer, believes this is the first time in Toronto such a venture has been tried.
"There has been ongoing problems, probably for 15 to 20 years, in Rowntree Mills Park," he told about 50 residents who gathered at Humber Summit Public Library on Tuesday, June 2 to hear about the plan.
He pointed to loud music, drinking, drugs, fights and prostitution.
"There are a lot of things that are happening in the park, which have happened over the years and it is just getting worse. Over the years we have tried pretty much everything," he said.
"It is evident these things will just continue unless we take drastic steps. My belief is if we block it off to cars, you won't get individuals coming in with cases of beer, they're too big to hide. You won't get people coming in with big speakers, they're too heavy to carry."
If the pilot project works, based on feedback at a public meeting to be called in the fall, the ban will become permanent.
The crowd Tuesday evening was divided, with many encouraging Mammoliti while others complained the ban will force people to park on surrounding streets, create hardship for families and seniors no longer be able to drive to the park, and push the problems to other parks.
Resident Myron Blozowski supports the ban and urged Mammoliti not to abandon the plan if there are initial rough spots.
"People learn after a while that is the way it is going to be. There is a transition period," he said, adding the park is well-served by public transit.
Peter Vecchiarelli, president of the Humber-Islington Ratepayers' Association, is also in favour of the ban, but wants drivers who don't obey parking rules on surrounding streets towed rather than ticketed.
But Patricia Franceschi is worried about more cars on her street, adding parking restrictions already aren't enforced.
"You're going to cause bigger problems for us," she said.
Her neighbour, Johnny Romano, agreed.
"I'm not in favour of closing the whole park because of a few idiots. There are some fine people who come down (to the park) with their families," he said.
However, Michael Disapia said the ban sends the right message that residents are fed up with problems at the park.
One man agreed that booming music at all hours is getting worse but he said the best idea is to let police enforce laws.
"What right do we have to take that (park) away from other people?" he asked.
But a woman, who admitted she has reservations about the ban, said it was worth a shot. "We don't know until we try," she said.
Mammoliti acknowledged there may be hiccups with the ban.
"We all have doubts. I have my doubts. I'm not completely comfortable with it," he said.
He agreed to draft a parking policy for surrounding streets by the June 9 Etobicoke-York community council meeting and said increased enforcement of bylaws and provincial offences should also help cut down on problems in the park.
Meanwhile, Mammoliti said he makes no apologies for shifting problems in Rowntree Mills Park to other wards.
"You're bringing a problem in my community to another community? Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned, but I'm here to make (my constituents') life better," he said.