Decision on whether to close Ocean Boulevard comes as long-term plans unveiled

Colwood council is expected to decide this month whether to partially close a portion of Ocean Boulevard for the summer.

Mayor Rob Martin has a motion before council’s June 28 meeting to close 400 metres of the middle section of the two-kilometre road from Friday afternoons to Sunday evenings in July and August to support special events and food trucks.

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The city closed the road during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent larger gatherings, but it was reopened last fall after an online poll indicated 61 per cent favoured full opening and 22 per cent wanted seasonal closures.

The issue is a divisive one in Colwood, with concerns about traffic flow and speeds, parking along the ocean and access for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as wildlife safety and the fragile ecosystems in the area.

The Esquimalt Lagoon is a popular and easily accessible beach throughout the year — people can park within steps of the ocean and the tranquil lagoon, which arcs around the grounds of Royal Roads University.

Colwood has just unveiled preliminary plans for the future of Ocean Boulevard and the city’s four kilometres of waterfront, which stretches from the new Royal Beach Development in the south to the north end of the lagoon.

Preliminary concepts for multi-use pathways and significant amenities and gathering places are being presented as part of the agenda for council’s waterfront committee this Wednesday. The concepts of the plan — showing improvements to the waterfront in six stages — are now available to view on the city’s website.

Council will debate the plans at its July 12 meeting and a public engagement process will begin July 16 and continue through to the fall, when a waterfront improvement plan will be drafted.

Martin said he’s optimistic the 10-year plan will draw plenty of input from residents.

“It’s an environmentally focused development, but it’s also one with increased accessibility for everyone,” he said. “We want to protect these areas because they are fragile, and we also want you to be able to take your 90-year-old mother down to the water.”

Many of the improvements focus on the lagoon area.

On the south beach at Lagoon Road and Ocean Boulevard, there are potential plans for a “Peace Bridge” over the lagoon’s pinch point to connect Pithouse Park and a new interpretive centre and events centre with increased parking. There would also be a viewing dock and fire pits on the beach, shelters and a universal access mat into the ocean for those in wheelchairs.

At the midway point of Ocean Boulevard, there are plans for another ocean access mat and a viewing dock and platform on the lagoon side. At the north end, concept plans call for a small craft dock in the lagoon and a guest services centre with concessions and washrooms.

Multi-use trails will cover the entire two kilometres of the boulevard and parking spaces and styles will be staggered, with food truck areas throughout. Traffic calming measures and crosswalks are also proposed.

Martin said council and planners are aware of the threat of erosion along Ocean Boulevard, so the pathways are being planned to “change as the foreshore changes.”

Early concepts also include an elevated boardwalk with beach access along Perimeter Park to the Royal Beach property. The Milburn area will have a viewing dock, access mats and gathering places.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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