Note: Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques has written a response to this column that can be found here: http://www.westerlynews.ca/opinion/387305691.html
I’ve never parallel parked a car in my life. My driving test administrator graciously forgot to ask me to before handing me a license.
Apparently I’m not alone on that because when the five angle-parking spots at the corner of Bay and Peninsula transformed into two parallel ones, drivers didn’t know what to do.
The district quickly installed two ‘parallel parking only’ signs to assure drivers the lines weren’t lying. We’re going to see more of those.
Like you, my eyebrows went up when I saw the white lines plotting out parallel parking spaces along Ucluelet’s Peninsula Road. Like a new haircut, let those features grow on you because more are on the way.
Ucluelet is currently going through a parallel parking phase that’s showing no signs of fading.
Our leaders are so in love with their pursuit that they’ve completely forgotten they purchased land and built an actual parking lot on Cedar Road in May 2012.
Parallel parking lines and signs can seemingly pop up overnight but an obviously needed sign at Bay and Peninsula telling tourists there’s an entire parking lot down the hill is something that takes years to acquire; four so far and counting.
I love that lot. While our visitors circled around the finish line of last month’s Edge-to-Edge Marathon looking for a space to cram into, my van was nestled into a sanctuary of solitude a 2-minute walk away.
The district was so excited about that lot when they bought it. They had about $200,000 in their parking fund when it came up for sale and they pounced.
“As soon as these opportunities come up we want to be able to jump on them,” Ucluelet’s then-mayor Bill Irving told me at the time. “It was put up for sale and the price was dropping so we thought ‘we have a parking issue, this is a good chunk of property, and the price is down so let’s buy it.”
My van’s comfort probably wasn’t what Irving envisioned.
Around that same time in 2012, the district leased land from the Co-op grocery store for about $200 a month to house a chamber office and additional parking haven.
“We’re hoping these lots will give us some breathing space for the parking in this area,” Irving said.
His idea was a solid one. Make it easy for tourists to park so they can be lured out of their cars and into our shops. Parking wasn’t the endgame; commerce was.
Irving’s not steering the ship anymore though and it seems our bow’s pointing in a new direction. The chamber lot is now full of ‘15-minute max.’ signs. That’s a brief shopping experience.
The Westerly News’ Bay Street parking area is apparently set for the parallel train. Yours probably is too. Howler’s Family Restaurant’s definitely is and the district is so excited about cutting that restaurant’s front lot in half that it’s forgotten the point of parking.
The little mobile office Cam MacPherson tried to set up for his wildlife watching business looked fantastic. It was quirky. It was fun. It had a mural—we need more of those—and was exactly what tourists want to see when they come here. Council axed the project and their leading explanation was they have high hopes for parallel parking about 20 metres away. Read that sentence as many times as you want; it will never make sense.
This set up wasn’t an invasion on public land. It was two licence holding local businesses trying to conduct business on private property. By working together, MacPherson and Howler’s hatched an awesome idea and these types of partnerships could help our small businesses survive while bringing more tourists, commerce and dollars to town.
I completely agree with Ucluelet council’s concerns that expanding an area’s attractants would increase the activity in that area but I also think expanding an area’s attractants would increase the activity in that area. Activity is a good thing. It’s how we survive here. We butter our bread from June-September and funky little shacks peddling adventures at sea would help churn that spread.
Parking isn’t supposed to be the endgame. It’s supposed to facilitate commerce. Let’s not forget what we need in this pursuit of a parallel universe.
Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.