A Central Saanich councillor is shocked that the Capital Regional District (CRD) would even consider charging for parking at Island View Beach, a local park popular across the Peninsula and Greater Victoria.
“During COVID-19 restrictions, we continue to advocate to create public opportunities for residents to enjoy our shared network of parks and open spaces and this proposal is a significant step in the wrong direction,” said Coun. Niall Paltiel in a written statement to the Peninsula New Review after council issued an unanimous statement of opposition on Monday.
CRD’s regional parks committee met Wednesday morning (after deadline) to consider a staff recommendation that calls on the CRD board to approve steps that promise to generate additional funds to help address increasing pressures on the regional parks and trails system.
The recommendation calls for gradual implementation of parking fee changes on a seasonal basis over three years, including expansion of seasonal paid parking to nine additional regional parks in 2022. The report reveals that these changes could ultimately generate $1.9 million in annual revenue with the later addendum that revenue projections should be treated with caution.
While the recommendation does not specifically mention Central Saanich, it cites strategy asking staff to “have conversations” with Central Saanich about paid parking at Island View Beach. Its parking lot lies within Central Saanich and it is not clear whether visitors to the beach would have to pay the fees outlined in the report, assuming approval.
Paltiel said in a later interview that opposition to the idea is broad.
“The amount of interest I have received is really astounding and I would hope that the parks committee listens to the respective voices within the region and makes the right decision,” he said.
The report before the committee says currently allocated resources “are no longer sufficient to meet growing demands” on the park system and points to the CRD’s regional parks strategic plan speaking of exploring opportunities for generating “non-tax revenue” to strengthen existing parks and trails.
“By implementing strategic and tailored revenue strategies, CRD Regional Parks can address immediate and growing service delivery pressures and help to reduce the ongoing need for increased requisition,” it reads. In other words, the report argues charging for parking will ease the burden on taxpayers, an argument Paltiel questions by pointing out the CRD has also consistently raised park fees through local property taxes.
Ultimately, the timing of the proposal could not be worse. “They are proposing this new parking fee in a time where local governments, not for profits, businesses and of course families across the region are tightening their belts to balance their budgets,” said Paltiel, who hopes other municipal governments will implore the CRD board to reconsider what he calls an “inappropriately placed downtown Victoria parking fee proposal.”
The Friends of Island View Beach also expressed opposition. If tax revenues are insufficient for operating parks, the solution lies in reducing costs, not to tax the public more, reads a statement.
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