Tofino plans to bring pay-parking to local beaches next month though local wallets won’t be getting any lighter, for now.
The current plan calls for a $3 per hour rate to be in effect from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. with all-day passes available for $12. Parking will be prohibited between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. with a two-hour, no-fee, grace period between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and limited residential permits available for overnight parking.
Annual passes will be free for residents of Tofino and neighbouring First Nations. Alberni Clayoquot Regional District residents outside Tofino, including Ucluelet and First Nations south of the Tofino-Ucluelet junction will be charged $60 for an annual pass. All business vehicles and anyone living outside the ACRD will be charged $120.
“No one is asking you to pay to go to the beach, they’re saying that you should pay to use parking services which cost a lot of money to actually maintain, run and upkeep,” said the district’s director of infrastructure and public works during a July 5 presentation to council.
Work said parking fees can be avoided by biking, walking, carpooling and riding Tofino’s summer shuttle, adding more bike racks are being installed near beach accesses.
“It is important to distinguish that while parking for the beach has previously been free for everyone, that comes with its ills and those are what we’re trying to manage here.”
All annual passes purchased or received this year will be valid until Oct. 31, 2022. After that, new rates will be considered including for local residents, though Work suggested a rebate program could be used to keep parking free for long-term residents.
“There was a lot of discussion about the views of longstanding taxpayers that have carried the burden for longer…There is a distinctive difference between people that have been here a longtime from seasonal workers, all of which could be considered local if today their address is Tofino,” he said. “The report does say that longstanding taxpayers would be free moving forward but with a basic fare for everybody else, which reduces the perceived inequity of people that have been here the longest versus people that are maybe transient, which is ripe for debate, but is also something that we heard through our engagement process.”
Coun. Britt Chalmers spoke adamantly against ranking ‘locals’ based on the time they’ve spent in Tofino.
“I really do not like the conversation of who’s more local and how long you’ve been here, I don’t think it does a service to the community,” she said. “I also think whether you’ve been here a month and you’re contributing to the community or you’ve been here 10 years, it’s just a blink in the eye compared to the tens of thousands of years that the First Nations have and even just having the conversation of who’s more local really pulls us apart.”
Coun. Tom Stere agreed.
“The difficulty of how we define local is problematic in general,” he said.
Work said the $120 fee for business vehicles drew a lot of discussion during the district’s public engagement, noting surf schools, kayak guides, photographers, wedding planners and other professionals all use the beach on a regular basis.
“There’s definitely members of the community that brought forward concerns that businesses were profiting off of their commercialization of public spaces like the beach locations,” he said.
Mayor Dan Law spoke against prohibiting parking between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“A lot of people, including myself, use the beach at midnight especially when the fluorescence is out and go to the beach early at 5 a.m. to get away from the crowds. The very, very last thing I would want to see is residents trying to get away from the crowds or access the beach in the middle of the night to be ticketed,” Law said. “That’s an absolute no- go for me.”
Coun. Cathy Thicke supported the nightly closures, suggesting she has had a front row seat to “nightmarish” scenes where parking lots have become extensions of the beach.
“As someone who lives adjacent to a busy beach for over 30 years and has seen the abuse of the parking lot and the overnight frequency that is going on, I just think it sends a good message,” she said.
Law also cautioned against charging local residents in the future, suggesting that many, especially young families, need to be able to park to visit the beach.
“Pay parking is not adding an amenity, it’s adding a barrier to an amenity,” he said. “Residents have made it very, very clear in the last couple elections and throughout my conversations about this that there’s few amenities in Tofino and that Tofino needs to start focusing on community residents. In this case, we’re not adding an amenity but we’re preparing to charge residents for something they already have, which is parking near the beach.”
READ MORE: Tofino set to charge for parking at beaches