Tofino eyes parking concerns at Chesterman Beach

Tofino’s municipal council will meet with local surf schools to discuss parking concerns at Chesterman Beach

During council’s April 14 regular meeting, Coun. Duncan McMaster said he had sat on a committee in 2011—before joining council—that raised recommendations to address parking concerns at the beach but these recommendations seemingly disappeared. 

He said the recommendations included modifying existing signage, enforcing parking bylaws, and exploring parking lot expansions.

“Those recommendations were accepted by the council and referred to staff which…sometimes is like disappearing into a black hole,” he said.

“That was in 2011, and I’ve been on council ever since, and we’ve had nothing back from staff. This is a problem that’s not getting any better; it’s getting a lot worse… I think we’re at the stage where we’ve got to do more enforcement. I’ve heard people talk about education for the past six years on council and I think we’re at the stage where it’s time to shoot the teacher.”

Coun. Ray Thorogood agreed and doubted emergency vehicles could navigate Lynn Road when it’s packed with parked cars.

“If you’re in medical distress in your house and you call for an ambulance you want it there as quickly as possible,” he said.

“It’s time that we really got to look at this…It’s been going on for 20 years and people are getting frustrated.”

District CAO Bob MacPherson suggested Tofino’s tourist season is expanding into traditional off-seasons and it may be time to extend the seasonal bylaw program and put more bylaw officers on patrol. 

“We are starting to extend the busy season and we’re having some catch up to do here in terms of being ready to deal with these things,” he said.

“We do want to provide more service than we’re providing now…it comes at a cost but I think the community seems to be asking us to address those issues.”

Coun. Dorothy Baert suggested the district should speak with local surf schools. 

“We need be a little more direct with the surf schools about expectations and how they manage their business operations and impacts in terms of the parking lots,” she said.

Mayor Josie Osborne agreed.

“Quite a few of the surf schools have confirmed that they would like to be a part of the solution, and being proactive to deal with it now rather than waiting for another busy long weekend or for community resentment to build up is not a wise idea,” Osborne said.

Coun. Greg Blanchette suggested much of the parking problem stems from out-of-towners.

“They come charging up here and they will just park as close to the waves as they can,” he said. “I don’t think education is going to have much of an effect on that segment of population.”

He said providing clear signage and enforcement would be the best route to take but added that more parking spots are needed.  

“If we have this demand, we’re not going to stem this demand, we don’t want to stem this demand. We’re marketing ourselves as a surf destination so we have to provide some kind of overflow parking for those long-weekends (and) those busy times,” he said.

Osborne noted it is not only out-of-towners who are disobeying parking laws and said she recently saw two vans from local resorts parked next to ‘No-Parking’ signs.

She suggested the district should send a strong message to beachgoers.

“We’re marketing ourselves as a surf town, and maybe we want more, but clearly at some point our physical infrastructure reaches a limit and our natural assets reach a limit too because there can only be so many surfers out in the water and it may not be the worst thing in the world to not have a parking spot for everybody,” she said.

“What that means is that, in order to ensure public safety and ease of access and reducing conflict between commercial uses and residential areas…we might be in a situation now where we just have to go hard on certain areas at certain times.”

Tofino RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Blaine Mumford told the Westerly News after the meeting that police will be keeping a keen eye on parking infractions. 

“The police can enforce the bylaws just the same as the bylaw enforcement officers, but it’s not always the first course of action when we’re dealing with a complaint that we want to jump in and start issuing tickets,” he said.

“Having said that, the issue on Lynn Road does reoccur all the time and does create a bit of a safety concern when the road is blocked such that it would be difficult maybe even to get emergency vehicles down there.”

 

andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca