LETTER: Colwood council fixing a problem that didn’t exist on Ocean Boulevard

I am a Colwood resident and own two properties in the Lagoon area on Anchorage Avenue. I am writing to express my deep disappointment with recent decisions made by the council regarding Ocean Boulevard.

I understand these are difficult unprecedented times but arbitrarily going against the will of the majority of the people sets a dangerous precedent and should be corrected. There have been a series of bad decisions made in this regard but this last reversal is the most egregious.

First the road was closed on both ends on March 18 “in response to the pandemic. The goal was to discourage large gatherings, maintain physical distancing and encourage people to stay closer to home.” A gate by the entrance to Fort Rodd Hill was closed (several thousand metres from the beach) and another by the pumphouse/bathrooms at the foot of Lagoon Road. This was a failed experiment.

With parking so far away from the east end of the beach nobody went there. All traffic was directed to one spot by the bathrooms. Very few people walked more than 100 metres from there. All the cars parked up both sides of Lagoon Road so that there was only one lane passable. The rest parked on Milbourn and Anchorage. Bumper to bumper, everyone channeled into one area. A failed experiment in physical distancing that went on for months. To my knowledge no other beach limited parking. Not Willows Beach in Oak Bay, not Gyro Park in Saanich, not Island View in Central Saanich, etc. How was this decision made? Was there any public input?

In May Colwood opened Ocean Boulevard from the Lagoon Road end to about halfway along to provide more parking. Why was that done? Were there studies? Did people complain that there was insufficient parking? Were there complaints from the people in the neighborhood that the street parking was a mess? Once again was there any public input? I ride my bike there everyday and I can tell you there were very few people anywhere near the east end of the beach past the barricade. Another failed experiment.

Then in June the gate at Fort Rodd Hill was opened so that vehicles could access that end of the beach. Why was this not done in the first place? The beach is huge. Even with every single formerly available parking space occupied there is loads of room for physical distancing.

Next, a survey was offered for public input. The results indicated that a wide majority of respondents wanted the road reopened. The June 24 Gazette front page announced that Ocean Boulevard would be reopened July 3. The next day, the TC said it was closed until the end of September. Why and how was this decided? I can’t find anything on line regarding a meeting or a vote. The statement said that the closure of a 400-metre section “will allow the city to explore its options on how the area can be used and improved.” Why can’t this exploration be done with the road open? Who is doing the exploration? Why was the end of September picked for reopening? Where is the transparency?

It seems that more is going on here than a sincere desire to control physical distancing. In my opinion that is a poor and ingenuine excuse for council’s actions. There is another agenda at play here. Stop the commuter traffic that the residents on Lagoon and Milborn have long complained about. No traffic study to support it, just use the pandemic as an excuse.

I suggest you take a hard look at the effect on Sooke and Metchosin roads. All the traffic formerly handled by Ocean Boulevard is now dumped on them, and it’s very obvious. This is another case of solving a problem that didn’t exist. The traffic didn’t disappear, it simply moved to another part of the municipality.

I am disappointed and concerned by our council’s disregard for the basic principles of democracy. When the survey didn’t return the result that council wanted it seems they simply did what they thought best. It’s not supposed to work that way. Open the road, stop using the pandemic as an excuse for your actions, listen to the people and stop fixing problems that don’t exist.

John McMillan

Colwood

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