Proposed Beacon Hill Park vehicle ban draws cheers, jeers

The thought of keeping vehicles out of Beacon Hill Park during the summer brought out opinions on both sides Tuesday.

Victoria councillors consider the measure Thursday.

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The proposal calls for the parking lot next to the petting zoo to remain open for people with mobility challenges, and there are also 300 to 400 parking spots available near the park, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said.

At the end of the summer, a decision on permanent pedestrian-only measures would be made.

Helps said that the city has been working hard to follow provincial-health regulations such as physical distancing, and the park has already been part of that.

“Beacon Hill Park has been completely closed to vehicle traffic for at least the last three weekends and we have had not one complaint,” she said. “We’ve had our park ambassadors out there in the park talking with people.

“What we need to do now is figure out what does the new normal look like,” Helps said. “And as more people start to come out of their homes we know that physical-distancing measures are going to need to be in place for at least the next 12 to 18 months, or until there’s a vaccine.”

Park-user Jolan Farkas said that keeping vehicles out doesn’t sit well with her at all, with access a big issue.

“I am absolutely a no,” she said. “I’m concerned for our elderly people, I’m concerned for people who have children, I’m concerned for tourism, I’m concerned for the petting zoo.”

Farkas said there has been no chance for public feedback so far.

The park should be kept the way it is, she said.

“It’s a really important part of Victoria and I think by closing it off in that way, it’s just limiting everybody.”

She said she lives in Saanich and drives to get to the park, and the parking is good.

Farkas said she doesn’t get mad often “but this one kind of rubbed me the wrong way.”

Craig and Julia Johnson, who had just finished a walk through the park, said the move to a vehicle-free park for a few months would be a good step.

“People drive through here quite quickly,” Julia Johnson said. “That’s kind of scary.”

Sheila Bridger, standing in front of the petting zoo, also favours a vehicle ban in the park.

“There’s so many animals criss-crossing, children criss-crossing,” she said. “I think it would be a better place without the cars.”

Her mother, Lisa, said there would be a more relaxed atmosphere, as well.

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