Proposed roadway changes through Beacon Hill Park.

UPDATE: Beacon Hill Park road closures here to stay – with one big exception

Slim majority of public survey respondents didn't support permanent road closures

  • Dec. 5, 2013 9:00 a.m.

Pilot road closures in Beacon Hill Park are here to stay, although a key artery through the park is likely to be reopened to vehicle traffic.

A majority of Victoria councillors voted to adopt the changes, which have been in place since Aug. 2012, at a governance and priorities committee meeting Thursday. The decision still requires final approval at a later council meeting.

As a compromise to proponents of car access, Bridge Way will re-open as a one-way street with a partial parallel multi-use pathway. The road runs from Douglas Street and southeast through the park, and will continue to prevent shortcutting by drivers between James Bay and Fairfield.

Councillors clashed on the results of a public survey, in which 52 per cent of 1,500 respondents said they were unsupportive or very unsupportive of the pilot road closures through the park. An estimated 1 million people visit Beacon Hill Park each year.

“If people were to propose putting roads through East Sooke park, people would freak out, and rightfully so,” said Coun. Lisa Helps, who argued unsuccessfully to keep Bridge Way closed. “No matter which way you slice it, nobody can defend a position that says drive cars through a natural park area.”

Advocates of the road closures highlighted a safer park for children, pedestrians and cyclists, while opponents said the changes hindered elderly and disabled access.

In 2011, the city’s draft transportation plan recommended permanent road closures through the urban park’s core, but council backed down from that idea before agreeing to the pilot closures.

Coun. Ben Isitt said the public survey alone wasn’t enough to convince him that accommodating more vehicle traffic was necessary, and questioned why staff lumped non-resident feedback – many of whom would likely arrive to the park by vehicle – into the survey results.

“I’d rather err on the side of public safety,” he said. “The status quo in the park right now is a very substantial compromise (for vehicle traffic).”

Coun. Pam Madoff summed up the thoughts of the majority on council with her support of a scenic drive-through as an appropriate balance of interests for all park users.

“Why do we ask the question if we’re just looking for people who support a predisposed view that we take,” Madoff asked.

The 5-4 vote was supported by Madoff, Councillors Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Geoff Young, Chris Coleman and Mayor Dean Fortin.

James Bay Neighbourhood Association president Marg Gardiner said she was disappointed council didn’t make all of the pilot road closures permanent.

“I think that’s really quite typical of what we’ve seen from council,” she said. “I would like to see really forward-thinking decisions, and I think that this one may have skipped that notion, that’s just my personal opinion.”

Joan Katarski, Fairfield-Gonzales Community Association executive director, said she sympathized with the competing interests of park users.

“I know many seniors wanted to have this ability to drive through, because many don’t live near the park,” she said. “I think the city’s trying to do a balancing act of meeting the needs of all. There’s a great deal of passion for Beacon Hill Park on many levels.”

Staff estimate the permanent changes and new parking lot will cost $120,000, but council deferred spending approval to a later meeting.

View the staff report here.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Royal Roads University to host a Black History Month panel

Four speakers will discuss being of African heritage in B.C.

VIDEO: Friday night fire outside Saanich Staples

Witness says two employees helped put out blaze

Victoria non-profit empowers women escaping abusive homes with a fresh start

Organization’s gift certificate program helped around 400 women last year

VIDEO: Royal Bay Secondary students take flight in ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’

Play tells the story of the orphan who becomes Peter Pan

Volunteers begin work on memorial garden for former Metchosin counsellor

Garden a fitting tribute to Moralea Milne, a champion of Garry oak ecosystems

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying?

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

Most Read