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Task Forces Face Complicated Mandate

Updated: Mar 25

Overlapping issues include water security, fire concerns and visitor numbers

Parking and highway noise were on the agenda as three councillors, the Public Works Manager and a dozen residents attended Thursday's meetings.

At the parking task force, a concerned resident reiterated her initiative to set up alternative parking for hikers at the gravel pit, and to redirect the path to Tunnel Bluffs away from the Magnesia Creek intake, while Kambiz and Farrah Azgordegan repeated their concerns about parking issues in lower Kelvin Grove.

The resident reviewed a list of concerns that were raised by the parking survey conducted in 2016 and expressed surprise so little mention was made of water or fire safety at that time. Since then, she added, explosive growth in hiker numbers has worsened these problems.

Mayor Ken Berry said that an examination of the list of concerns gathered by the current task force shows that "it's become evident that parking is linked closely with our watershed, and to go further, our drinking water." He said that people have expressed the fear that "with up to 14,000 hikers a month, there's a risk for our watershed."

Berry added that while the task force was intended to address parking, these concerns "start to intermingle with water, which is of course, one of our critical resources."

He referenced the amount of time staff is spending on parking ticket disputes, and suggested that the costs of parking are both social and financial.

The resident noted that while many of the concerns that arose in 2016 were still valid, "the situation for Village residents has become untenable in terms of water security and fire risk." She handed out maps illustrating the proposed hiking trail that would direct the thousands of visitors to Tunnel Bluff each year onto a route away from the Magnesia Creek water intake, which is currently traversed by hikers.

She also discussed the possibility of an online parking app that could direct hikers elsewhere if the area was full.

"This plan moves the bulk of the hikers around the watershed, relocating the foot traffic to cross below the water intake. It would help protect the watershed from contaminants and be consistent with policies adopted by other watersheds around this area."

She noted all Village residents should read the recent Water Report submitted to Council by Public Works Manager Karl Buhr. (The report can currently be found HERE, beginning on page 44.)

Berry explained that the Water Report has opened the door for Council to approach higher levels of government for support over water issues. "We all need to be aware that the snow pack is much lower than in past years. But this task force was struck for parking, and at the end of the day, water is another topic."

Buhr said that he didn't want to conflate water quality and fire risk with parking, although he said the fecal coliform numbers indicate hikers are defecating in the watershed. He noted that there is a long history of consideration of the gravel pit being used also for parking, but that the Ministries that oversee the pit are reluctant to give up any control. (The gravel pit, which while inside village boundaries, is overseen in part by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and in part by the Ministry of Energy and Mines.)

He confirmed that in June, the busiest month last year, about 14,000 visitors were counted along local trails. He added that while we have more visitors than we can handle, they are not only coming to hike.

"They are also coming to Lions Bay Beach Park, and to Kelvin Grove Marine Park, and Brunswick Beach." He noted that visitors set two fires this past summer.

"The question is what is it that we want to do? Do we want to accommodate visitors and their parking needs? Do we want to encourage them to take the bus?"

One resident identified himself as a swimmer. "There are times when you can't even find a spot to sit at the beach," he said. "We are already far over capacity. We need to throttle demand, not enhance it."

"There are so many moving parts when it comes to parking, and so many solutions to different needs," Buhr said. "People are aware of the issues on their street, but very unaware of the needs anywhere else."

He suggested updating the 2016 parking report, and made reference also to the parking plan established in 2020. He cautioned that many visitors are driven here by social media, with no sign of a slow-down.

Further discussion at the meeting addressed other areas of concern. The Azgordegans both spoke to the quality of life issues that have arisen for them as a result of overuse and misuse of the parking lot in Lower Kelvin Grove. Visitors setting fires, walking illegally down the rail tracks to reach the cliffs, openly disrobing, and making noise after hours were points of concern. Farrah Azgordegan described packed tour buses arriving to disgorge groups heading to the cliffs.

Resident Christine Little asked the Mayor to consider possible short-term solutions that could be implemented before hiking season begins.

Suggestions included a registration-driven app to reserve parking and reduce traffic, signs to be placed at the entrances of the Village indicating when parking spots are full, a small changing facility for divers, and an increase in the towing of illegally-parked vehicles.

It was noted that bus companies need to be held accountable for delivering passengers who engage in illegal and dangerous activities on the cliffs south of the village.

Councillor Neville Abbott referenced the signage changes along Mountain, Sunset and Bayview that were made to address skyrocketing numbers in the 2020 Parking Plan. "If you are looking for short-term solutions, I think you need to revisit that plan and see what needs to be updated."

Mayor Berry said that recommendations from the task force meetings will go to Council for review, with special consideration of any solutions that can be acted on immediately.

After the meeting, the concerned resident was blunt. "People need to realize this affects all the residents of the village, and we need to not be oblivious to all these problems. If our water is compromised, what happens then? I lived here after the debris torrent in the 80's, and with the number of boil water advisories, many homeowners could no longer get insurance back then. It can happen again. We need to come up with solutions, and soon."

The Watershed welcomes your thoughts about parking, water and fire issues. Leave your comments below, or email us at 

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