Critics say proposed CRD parking fee increase ‘frankly very insensitive’

Critics say proposed CRD parking fee increase 'frankly very insensitive'

The Capital Regional District (CRD) is considering an increase in parking fees at regional parks over the next three years.

A recommendation has been put forward to the CRD by the Regional Parks Committee proposing the “gradual implementation” of parking fees, along with the expansion of seasonal paid parking to nine additional regional parks between 2020 and 2022.

The Capital Regional District Board will be considering the recommendations for the below parking fee changes at a meeting on Feb. 24.

The committee is recommending a short-term parking fee of $2 per hour be implemented starting in 2021. According to the recommendation, an added daily fee will have an initial increase of $1.75 and incremental increases of $1.50 per year subsequently, to a maximum of $7 per day from 2023 onward “until a future fee review is undertaken.”

The recommendation from the Regional Parks Committee, outlined in the Meeting Agenda for Wednesday, states that adding year-round parking fees “could ultimately generate $2.5 million in annual revenue at the fair market value rates.”

If parking fees were only charged seasonally, which staff is recommending, it would generate up to $1.9 million in annual revenue.

In addition to short-term parking options, the Regional Parks Committee has proposed seasonal parking fees at nine regional parks.

These parks include:

  • Devonian
  • East Sooke
  • Elk/Beaver Lake
  • Francis/King
  • Horth Hill
  • Matheson Lake
  • Mill Hill
  • Mount Work
  • Witty’s Lagoon

The committee says a seasonal pass would be valid at all regional parks with pay parking while also claiming that a 2023 $60 season’s pass would be “cost effective” after eight visits.

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The recommendation comes as CRD parks experience a significant increase in use.

“Our parks are being more used than ever, we’ve seen a huge increase in 2020 with the pandemic in particular, I think in the order of a 25 per cent increase,” said CRD Regional Parks Committee Chair Rebecca Mersereau.

“As the regional parks system expands and the number of people who enjoy regional parks grows, resources, as currently allocated, are no longer sufficient to meet growing demands,” reads a statement in the recommendation. “In order to ensure appropriate and sustainable funding, a Regional Parks Revenue Generation Strategy 2021-2024 has been developed to highlight areas for additional non-tax revenue cost recovery.”

The proposed implementation of parking fees is part of the Revenue Generation Strategy, which specifies the need to “ensure appropriate funding for parks & trails infrastructure, improvements and maintenance.”

The recommendation also says that discussions with the respective municipalities of Albert Head Lagoon and Island View Beach – two locations not on CRD land – will be had about the feasibility of parking fees as well.

But Wayne Cox, with the Friends of Island View Beach, says he thinks the idea of adding pay parking at any CRD park is outrageous, especially during a pandemic when so many people are using parks as a chance to safely leave their homes and get fresh air and exercise.

“We think it’s outrageous and frankly very insensitive at this time of COVID,” he said.

“The only way to get to most of our regional parks is in a car so they’ve got a captive audience and a lot of people it’s going to be a struggle for them, a lot of seniors use our parks, families come out on the weekends,” he said.

On Monday night, Central Saanich Councillor Carl Jensen announced on Twitter a motion stating Central Saanich is not in favour of the CRD charging parking fees at any of its regional parks, including Island View Beach, passed unanimously.

Mersereau says the board is very aware that adding or increasing parking fees could create a barrier for those with lower incomes.

“It would need to be monitored carefully to make sure it isn’t having the impact of making our parks exclusive and not available to a segment of our population that we also need to serve,” she said.

The proposal will be discussed on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Graham CoxGraham Cox
April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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