Keep open, close or partially close road along Esquimalt Lagoon?

An online survey about the future of Colwood’s Ocean Boulevard is asking whether the scenic roadway by Esquimalt Lagoon should be closed.

The decision to gauge public opinion grew out of the COVID-19 prevention measure of shutting the road to discourage large gatherings, said Colwood Mayor Rob Martin.

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“Clearly people got to experience what it’s like to have it closed, which really invigorated some of the community to say ‘Hey, why can’t we do this all the time? Why can’t this be a park?’ ”

He said there are a number of choices to consider, including having a gate at the midpoint of the waterfront route, which runs between the lagoon and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Parking would still be available in that scenario “but there wouldn’t be that traffic flow-through that would occur,” Martin said.

Gene and Kathy Lehna, who had their RV parked next to the Ocean Boulevard beach on Wednesday, both like the idea of a midpoint barrier.

They live just a few minutes away and frequent the beach. They oppose the boulevard being routinely used as a “thoroughfare” to get to downtown Victoria.

It also becomes something of a drag strip late at night, Gene Lehna said.

“Open up on both ends and keep it blocked in the middle.”

Also in the mix is the idea of closing the road on weekends, perhaps Friday night to Sunday night, Martin said.

Sarah Grainger, watching two-year-old Victoria and four-year-old Maya play in the water, said she likes that idea.

She said the beach wasn’t overly crowded Wednesday, “but come the weekend everybody’s off and I can imagine this being slammed with people.”

Chris Goulet, another beach user, said he favours the open-road option. “I think as long as people keep their distance it’s fine to leave it the way it is.”

Area resident Frances Cammiade said closing the road would make it more difficult for seniors to get access.

Martin said Ocean Boulevard is a big topic for many residents. “People feel very strongly about their opinion of what should happen with Ocean Boulevard.”

Of the more than 500 people who have responded to the survey so far, one-third support closing the road, one-third support a full opening and one-third back the “hybrid” idea of things such as periodic closures, Martin said.

Among those in support of keeping the road open are people who live in the area and work in Victoria, and make the “purposeful choice” to go over to Ocean Boulevard on the drive home, Martin said.

“They choose to go down Ocean Boulevard because that’s an opportunity for them to unwind before they arrive at home,” he said. “I completely understand that approach, as well.”

Others consider the boulevard to be an important traffic outlet as density increases. Roadwork is currently blocking access via the north end of the peninsula.

To take part in the survey, which closes June 15, go to letstalkcolwood.ca/oceanboulevard.

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