A battle is brewing over a childhood rite of passage in a town in southwestern Ontario.
A number of residents in a new subdivision in Tillsonburg, Ont., have been asked tor remove their basketball nets from the end of their driveways and at least some of them are refusing.
“Well, that’s odd,” Shannon Steen, 42, remembers thinking when a bylaw officer rang her doorbell to make the request. “Why do I have to move it? It’s been there for a year and a half.”
Steen has four boys who range in age from seven to 13. “Every day, even in the winter, they’re outside playing,” she said.
And if they’re not shooting hoops on the street in front of her driveway, kids from the neighbourhood are, Steen said.
So what’s the problem?
A school bus recently clipped one of the roadside basketball nets in the new subdivision where Steen lives. Construction crews are paving driveways in the neighbourhood, and the big trucks are clogging the streets making it difficult to manuever around the nets, said mayor Deb Gilvesy.
“The net portion was overhanging onto the roadway,” she said.
They’re playing outside and they’re happy and the weather is nice after a long winter, and we’re going to discourage that? That’s the sad part,– Shannon Steen, Tillsonburg mom
“Our number one role as council is health and safety. So in this situation, it clearly presented a health and safety concern,” she said.
Because Steen’s home shares a driveway with her neighbour, she prefers to place her sons’ basketball near the road as a courtesy to her neighbour.
Steen has not moved her sons’ basketball net.
“Nobody in the subdivision has moved it yet either,” she said.
“That’ll be something that bylaw will have to take up with them,” said Gilvesy. “We have rules and they were warned to remove them and bylaw will have to follow up however they choose to follow up with that.”
Similar debates have played out in communities across Canada over the years, from Moncton to Ottawa and St. John’s, but post-pandemic, Steen is even more confounded by bylaw’s demand to move the nets.
Kids are outside and off devices
“I was quite upset,” said Steen who posted about the bylaw request on social media.
“Kids are outside and they’re not on their devices,” said Steen. “They’re outside playing, and now we’re going to take that away from them with no warning.”
Plus, according to Steen, because the subdivision is so new, so far there are no nearby parks.
As much as we enjoy people using public amenities and getting exercise, this was driven by a particular complaint that we felt was valid.– Jonathon Graham, Town of Tillsonburg
“After two years where people were scared to play with other kids…and now they’re playing outside and they’re happy and the weather is nice after a long winter, and we’re going to discourage that? That’s the sad part,” said Steen.
“This is flagged as a cluster area so I would fully expect some follow up,” said Jonathon Graham, director of operations and infrastructure at the town of Tillsonburg, who said a number of basketball nets in the neighbourhood are within the right of way of the road allowance.
Graham is still hopeful people will move their nets before bylaw heads back out this week, and before anyone is issued any tickets.
“Our number one concern in the town of Tillsonburg is public safety,” said Graham. “As much as we enjoy people using public amenities and getting exercise, this was driven by a particular complaint that we felt was valid to follow up with to safeguard the public’s thoroughfare and right of way that affected these roads.”
In the long term, there may be another solution, said Graham.
“There’s some chatter that we may be considering a revision of our encroachment bylaw,” he said. One idea? Allowing basketball nets at the end of driveways between certain hours.