Parking at the end of Tonquin Park Road will remain free, for now.
Tofino’s municipal council kicked around the idea of charging for parking in the 12-vehicle lot, in an effort to push Tonquin Park goers to the significantly larger lot at Tofino’s community hall, but has decided instead to adjust the area’s signage.
During Tofino’s Feb. 23 council meeting, Coun. Greg Blanchette doubted whether pay parking would alleviate Tonquin’s concerns but said he was willing to try it out.
“I’m not convinced that it will work to relieve congestion down there but I wouldn’t mind doing the experiment to see if it in fact does work,” he said.
Coun. Cathy Thicke disagreed and spoke against experimentation.
“I don’t think it’s a wise idea,” Thicke said. “I’m personally not interested in an experiment here; there has been way too much upset with that park over the last 50 years.”
She said pay parking would not be effective in the area and worried it would cause more drivers to park along the road leading up to the lot to avoid charges.
She also suggested Tonquin would be a dangerous place for a parking meter to be.
“As we’ve heard many, many, times over, there’s a lot of drinking that goes on there so the possibility for vandalism is very high at that particular spot,” she said.
She said council needed better solutions for Tonquin and laid out a five-step plan to combat the current congestion woes.
This plan included removing a Tonquin Beach directional sign at 1st Street and Arnett Road, adjusting how the area is advertised on tourist maps, installing a ‘No Parking’ sign along Tonquin Park Road as well as a ‘No RVs or Buses’ sign at its entrance and maintaining steady enforcement of this signage.
She said these steps were “very low-cost” and suggested all five didn’t need to come online at once.
“If you don’t like the five steps take three steps, I don’t care, take one step but let’s do something,” she urged.
“We have to do something. Not doing anything is not acceptable to the public, nor to any of the residents, nor really to the visitors; it’s a no-win.”
She noted the lot was full on a recent rainy Wednesday morning in February, which she took as an ominous sign of what lies ahead with Tofino’s tourist season revving its engine.
“It’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come there so I think we really need to face this one head-on,” she said. “It’s going to be absolute pandemonium and the bylaw and the RCMP, I can tell you, are going to be called off the beat if we don’t and that’s not fair to them.”
Mayor Josie Osborne agreed that experimentation was not the right call and cautioned a failure at Tonquin could hinder pay parking’s chances elsewhere.
“After thinking about this for a long time and talking to a lot of people, I don’t really favour the idea of experimenting at Tonquin,” she said. “I’m not really interested in losing credibility as a district of Tofino if we’re going to embark on pay parking and one area is, I’ll call it ‘not awesome.’”
Blanchette said the steps Thicke laid out seemed easy enough to implement and agreed something must be done.
“Thinking is not going to solve the problem,” he said. “We need to try a few things, even just one thing, and see what effect that has.”
He suggested starting with the removal of the Arnett Road directional sign and putting up the ‘No Parking’ and ‘No RVs or Buses’ signs.
“Those are very easy to do,” he said. “Those three steps will give us some indication of whether it will go any ways towards controlling parking down there and if it doesn’t work they’re extremely easy to reverse.”
Osborne was hesitant to put such specific direction to staff.
“I appreciate all the work that you put into this Coun. Thicke and you live there so you drive there everyday and you see it but I’m a little loathe to provide very specific direction on [what] signs and where to our staff,” she said.
Council agreed to have staff look into signage and educational tools to ease Tonquin Park Road’s congestion.
Thicke also suggested promoting the nearby community hall’s Tonquin Park access as an alternative.
“Everybody can use it, no problem, fill your boots, go down the trail, hike all you want, go to the beach and spend as long as you want at the community hall, it’s not a problem,” she said.
She reemphasized the Tonquin Park Road lot should not be featured on future tourist maps but acknowledged such a move would have to wait a year as 2016’s maps have already been printed.
“On all those maps that go out to thousands of people this is the great space to park,” she lamented.