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Parking fees at regional parks back on CRD agenda

The Capital Regional District’s parks committee is set to discuss whether to impose parking fees at nine more regional parks
The most-used of the nine regional parks is Elk and Beaver lakes, with 1.9 million visits in 2022. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The prospect of parking fees at nine more regional parks is back on the table, after being rejected two years ago.

If approved, the fees would be in effect at a third of the Capital Regional District’s 33 regional parks. Two parks — Thetis Lake and Sooke Potholes — already have parking fees.

The fee for daily parking would start at $4 next year and rise to $5.50 in 2025 and $7 in 2026.

A seasonal parking pass would cost $30 in 2024, $45 in 2025, and $60 in 2026.

A two-hour pass would be $2.

Fees are proposed for Elk and Beaver Lake, Horth Hill in North Saanich, East Sooke Regional Park, Witty’s Lagoon, Devonian Regional Park and Matheson Lake in Metchosin, Mill Hill in Langford, Sooke Hills Wilderness (the south access), and Sea to Sea Regional Park in Sooke.

The most used of the nine parks is Elk and Beaver lakes, with 1.9 million visits in 2022, followed by East Sooke with 235,262, and Horth Hill at 120,020.

At Elk Lake on Monday, Lisa Jones of Saanich, who was walking her dog with a friend, called the proposed fees steep and worried some families couldn’t afford them. “It should be free for everybody.”

Madeline Bakker of Victoria said while she can afford the fees, she is concerned that some may find the cost too high, and choose not to spend as much time in nature.

“As interest rates have kept creeping up, many people are now feeling the financial pinch. As well, there are more increases in fees for things already,” she said. “As a society, we need to support people who do not have much money so that they can enjoy the ‘free’ things more easily.”

Fee levels were developed by comparing rates regionally and provincially to come up with an average, staff said.

If the measure is approved, the district could look at extending parking fees to the other regional parks in 2026.

The parks committee will vet the proposal on Wednesday. If it wins support, it goes to the CRD board for a final decision.

District staff have been asked to find non-tax revenue to pay for accelerated upgrades on local trestles and for widening and lighting certain sections of the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails.

Parking fees could generate $1.8 million annually in non-tax revenue, a staff report said.

Trestle and trail improvements are estimated to cost $53.5 million.

The plan would be for the district to finance the work through debt, along with grants and partnerships.

In 2021, the parks committee declined to endorse parking fees for more local green spaces, instead approving a motion in favour of using taxation as the main funding source for park maintenance.

Then-View Royal mayor David Screech voted against a move to increase the daily parking fee to $7 per day, calling that rate and the $60 seasonal pass punitive.

The CRD has 13,200 hectares of parkland, 100 kilometres of regional trails and more than 400 kilometres of trails within the regional parks.

Visits to regional parks and regional trails have increased by 54 per cent since 2012. Last year, regional trails had about 3.3 million visits and regional parks received about 4.8 million visits.

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