Committee says no to more parking fees for CRD parks

The Capital Regional District’s parks committee declined to endorse parking fees for more local green spaces on Wednesday, instead giving unanimous approval to a motion that acknowledges taxation as the main method of funding park maintenance.

Committee member and View Royal Mayor David Screech was among those opposed to sending a report on the fees for consideration by the CRD board March 10. The report calls for gradual implementation of parking fees at nine additional regional parks, bringing them in line with fees already in place from May to September at Thetis Lake and Sooke Potholes.

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“Fundamentally, it’s just a massive change to our parks with the stroke of a pen,” Screech said.

“You don’t make such change to our parks without consulting our public.”

He said parking rates of $2.25 per day or $20 per season will climb to “punitive” rates of $7 a day and $60 a season by 2023 under the system presented to the committee.

Screech said the current rates are affordable. “And possibly I can get behind that sort of an amount, but when you look at $7, in two years, for a family to go to Thetis or any number of the parks for $60 a season, that’s a whole different amount,” he said. “For low-income families, it’s a huge amount of money.”

The View Royal mayor said transit is not an option for getting to many regional parks

“You’re not going to go there unless you take a car or ride a bike.”

Yvonne Mendel, director of advocacy for the South Island Mountain Bike Society, applauded the committee’s decision, calling pay parking a trail-access fee. “We don’t agree with a trail-access fee and we want our parks to be as accessible to everyone as possible,” she said, noting society members put in hundreds of hours of trail maintenance each year at Mount Work Regional Park. “We don’t want to create barriers.”

But committee member Geoff Young, a Victoria councillor, said he supports additional parking fees to help pay for maintaining washrooms and trails in parks and collecting garbage. “We received a lot of letters talking about how this is some tax grab and I just have to assure those members of the public who wrote in that no, the revenue from parking is not going to be distributed among the CRD directors and the CRD staff.

“It is going to be used to fund parks.”

Without an added source of funds, a tax increase could be needed to keep parks in order, Young said.

The alternate motion passed by the committee was suggested by Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt.

Screech said parking fees should be considered as part of a strategic-planning process underway for parks.

jbell@timescolonist.com

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