On July 17 paid parking in Tofino‘s downtown took effect, leaving those living in coastal and remote Nuu-chah-nulth reserves with limited spots due to confusion with new signage during the peak tourist season.
“The parking issue in Tofino is so bad,” said Curt McLeod, Ahousaht resident. “Especially during tourist season.”
For residents living in Hesquiaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, and Ahousaht communities, they depend on the 110 allocated offshore parking spots to safely leave their vehicles while they travel by boat or seaplane home. According to the District of Tofino, 40 of these spots are allocated to Tla-o-qui-aht.
McLeod explained that the old signage clearly indicated offshore parking, while the new signs have caused confusion for locals and tourists.
“Tourists are just rolling up seeing those parking signs and just parking there,” said McLeod. “Even if we have a valid permit hanging on our rearview mirror, we have nowhere to park.”
“They’re not paid parking, so a lot of people are going into them,” he added.
McLeod said that he’s seen vehicles with Washington and Alberta plates parking in the offshore spots.
“Up until last week, we could just pull over and park almost anywhere if 1/8 offshore parking spots 3/8 were taken or full,” said McLeod. “Now those other parking spots are all paid parking, so we’ll get ticketed or towed away.”
According to the District of Tofino, the new paid parking approach is an effort to “encourage a healthier turnover of limited parking space and help improve parking amenities so more people can enjoy access to Tofino‘s beaches and downtown.”
In an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa, the District of Tofino said that they are “aware that parking is limited in the downtown core and cannot meet the demands of everyone.”
“The district will work with offshore communities on a long-term solution to address the offshore resident parking needs,” reads the email. “All drivers must comply with the posted time restrictions.”
According to the district’s website, though bylaw officers “make every attempt to maintain permit parking spaces for vehicles with valid permits only,” offshore parking spaces are available on a “first come, first served basis.”
If no offshore parking is available, permit holders may park in unrestricted parking areas, time-limited parking spots for the specified time, and in the paid parking zone with the applicable fee, reads the website.
Offshore permits are free and valid for one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, reads the website. They must be hung on the rearview mirror of the vehicle and are not transferable among persons.
Offshore residents can obtain their permits at the Tofino municipal office with their license plate number and proof of offshore residency, or by registering online at tofino.robbinsparking.com
“If there weren’t offshore areas we wouldn’t be able to park in Tofino,” said McLeod. “That’s really our parking lot down there.”
“With this sign change it’s really confusing for everybody,” he added.
By Alexandra Mehl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter