The District of Tofino is preparing to introduce pay parking at its beaches this summer.
During a special meeting held last month, the town’s municipal council unanimously endorsed seeking out a third party to implement pay parking at about 10 local beach sites.
In a presentation to council, Director of Infrastructure and Public Works Fraser Work said hourly rates had not yet been hammered out, but will be similar to those in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
The Park Reserve’s day rates are: $10 for an adult, $8.40 for seniors and $20 for families or carpoolers.
Work said an annual pass will be implemented to provide discounts to locals and that residents of Tofino and neighbouring First Nations would receive a free pass in 2021, with an undetermined fee being introduced in 2022. Alberni Clayoquot Regional District residents living outside Tofino, including Ucluetians, will be charged $60 for an annual pass once the program is launched.
Anyone living outside the ACRD will be charged $120 for an annual pass.
Commercial vehicles, like surf schools, are expected to be charged between $300 – $600 for an annual beach parking permit.
Work added that all groups are expected to be restricted to a maximum of four hours to increase turnover and allow people circulating the block to eventually get to the beach.
Mayor Dan Law expressed concern about capping beach visits for locals to four hours.
“I’d really hate to see a resident stay for five hours and get a parking ticket for it,” he said.
Coun. Britt Chalmers questioned why Ucluelet residents were not included in the free inaugural pass for 2021 and Work suggested “it’s a very debatable set of constraints.”
“We have to draw a line in the sand somewhere,” he said. “We’ve tried to distinguish between the maximum privilege in the first year going to Tofino residents and the First Nations communities with a very inexpensive but reasonable cost for ACRD (residents), which would potentially access our facilities at a much higher frequency than others on the Island.”
He explained the need to charge for parking arised from high demand and limited supply, abuse of current parking laws, traffic safety impacts and wear and tear on infrastructure, adding that a tighter configuration would maximize the space currently allocated for parking.
“There’s a set of parking problems that we’re trying to solve…We, of course, have a very high demand for a limited supply of parking. We also suffer from an inefficient use of available space in many areas, especially at the beaches,” he said.
“We have significant wear and tear on our public infrastructure. We often will see instances on highly dense parking areas that are collapsing ditches and reducing the effectiveness of a lot of our drainage in our community.”
He also expressed concern over what he believes is the commercialization and privatization of public space.
“Whether businesses are using public space for commercial gains or private entities might be using public spaces for the frequent and routine storage of vehicles, which is largely considered in the planning world as the lowest and worst use of land,” he said.
He said that while a third party would manage and enforce the new pay parking areas, the district would have control over the rates and the town’s bylaw team would still be responsible for monitoring parking in all non-pay areas.
Coun. Cathy Thicke suggested the community would likely be more open to the idea if at least some of the pay parking revenue went towards a specific and publicized amenity.
“I would put a vote in for recreation or the library,” she said.
Mayor Dan Law echoed Thicke’s sentiments.
“I understand the desire presented is to allocate funds to road improvements and infrastructure like that, but I do concur that not all of it but a certain portion going to a community amenity would do well to move this along for our residents,” he said.
Coun. Duncan McMaster agreed.
“I think it’s really good to get the community onside if people know where these funds are going to and I would like to see some community involvement to decide where these funds go to,” he said.
Work said a communications plan will be launched to bring people up to speed prior to fees being charged, including signage in heavy use areas like the Tofino Co-op and post office as well as mail outs to local PO Boxes.
“The intent is to provide enough of a tapestry that really does get to the different pockets of the district to make sure that those responses, feedback, input gets ferreted out,” he said.
He tempered expectations however on how robust the engagement process will be.
“I’m a little bit sensitive to the expectations and appetite for some people to get right into every parking issue and work on this stuff and I’ll never get out of there alive,” he said.
“In some respects, I want to give council assurance that we’re going to do our due diligence and we’re going to connect with people and in other respects I’m also kind of raising a little bit of a yellow flag saying that in some cases no amount of engagement might be enough for certain users…I do know that in the parking game, sometimes I would never be able to engage enough.”