Saanich council Monday unanimously rejected a recommendation to create more roadside parking near Mount Douglas Park, while promising to crack down on illegal parking and improve access for individuals with disabilities.
The majority of council also signalled the community that Saanich is not prepared to create more parking inside the park, a decision that drew charges of “cherry-picking” from one councillor.
Council made this flurry of decisions after it had received a long-awaited report that reviewed access to Mount Douglas Park, a regional landmark popular with outdoor enthusiasts, but a persistent source of frustration for some residents who live on a quiet road at the foot of the mountain.
The district commissioned the study in early 2016 to “develop options for improving community access to key trails and facilities” in Mount Douglas Park following complaints from residents of Glendenning Road, a rural road that terminates into what locals call a “bridal trail” leading into the park.
This feature has made Glendenning Road a popular access point for individuals with mobility issues among others, but inspired complaints from residents who fear that vehicles parking illegally on the road would damage the area’s natural environment, block access for emergency vehicles, and diminish their quality of life.
Looking to reconcile competing demands from Glendenning Road residents, individuals with mobility issues, and the larger community, the report laid out 25 recommendations including doubling the existing number of legal parking stalls on Glendenning Road from five to 10 at a total cost of $80,000 with the actual asphalting costing $30,000. According to the access report, 76 per cent of respondents during an open house surveyed “expressed support for some additional parking” on the road.
But council – following extensive, occasionally heated input from the public – rejected that recommendation while instructing staff to begin implementation of the other recommendations, some of which will have significant budget implications and require input from other jurisdictions.
“To me, it is clear that Glendenning [Road] is not a place where we want to encourage more parking,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff in echoing earlier comments from Couns. Susan Brice and Fred Haynes.
“I felt six months ago that parking on Glendenning was not a good thing, and certainly now faced with $80,000 for five parking spots, I’m not able to go in that direction,” said Brice, who recommended that Saanich look into expanding parking on the beach parking lot off Cordova Bay Road.
Haynes said he could not support adding more parking along Glendenning because it would “irreversibly change” the nature of the road.
Other parking and access options exist and the district should explore those options before adding more parking on Glendenning Road, said Haynes. “These things can be tried without institutionalizing parking on Glendenning.”
He also called for “robust enforcement” of existing rules against illegal parking on the road and recommended the district look into reserving some existing parking spots on Glendenning for individuals with mobility issues. Council later passed a motion to that effect.
It had earlier rejected a motion by Coun. Colin Plant that would have directed staff to explore the “costs of increasing parking inside Mount Douglas (Park) at the Glendenning entrance with the understanding that there would no net loss to the park by exploring options of reducing parking at the beach parking lot and to consult the public on such a plan.”
Plant said expanding parking inside the park at no net less to the park represents the “simplest solution” to a problem that started when council “rightly or wrongly implemented signage that took away parking” on Glendenning Road.
Plant’s colleagues, however, questioned the spirit of the motion.
“The public has made it clear that that it does not want more parking in the park,” said Brownoff in referencing the access report that found 72 per cent of respondents opposed the conversion of parkland into parking.
Plant defended his proposal by noting that it deals with a very specific site and accused council of hypocrisy. If council cites the public’s opposition to the conversion of parkland into parking, why does it ignore comparable levels of support for adding more parking to Glendenning Road, he asked.
“I think council is cherry picking here,” he said.