Elk and Beaver Lake Park was among nine additional Capital Regional District parks that had been recommended for new parking fees. The CRD board rejected new fees for now, but asked staff to include parking revenue options in the regional parks strategic plan expected back at the board in 2022. (Black Press Media file photo)

Elk and Beaver Lake Park was among nine additional Capital Regional District parks that had been recommended for new parking fees. The CRD board rejected new fees for now, but asked staff to include parking revenue options in the regional parks strategic plan expected back at the board in 2022. (Black Press Media file photo)

Absence of new parking fees at Greater Victoria regional parks confirmed

CRD board rejects ‘modest’ interim fee structure, won’t see new options until 2022

Parking fees at Capital Regional District parks where none currently exist aren’t coming anytime soon.

On Wednesday, CRD board members approved a committee recommendation to have staff report back with new options for expanded parking fees, during the regional parks strategic planning process. With that plan not expected to return to the board until 2022, people who drive to CRD parks other than Thetis Lake and Sooke Potholes can park for free for the immediate future.

RELATED STORY: CRD parks committee rejects new Greater Victoria parking fees – again

Mirroring the decision at the recent CRD parks committee meeting, the board rejected a move to institute fees at other parks, this time at a “more modest” level than previously recommended by staff.

At the March 10 meeting, Salt Spring Island director Gary Holman lobbied for a “more modest parking revenue strategy” to be used in the interim until the strategic plan came forward. Ultimately that motion failed, with the board electing to stick with Victoria director Ben Isitt’s approved motion from the committee meeting, which put discussions over new fees into the strategic planning process, and emphasized property taxes as the preferred method of paying for CRD parks operations.

Isitt suggested that if the board’s preference was to go with a “user pay” system at CRD parks, “why stop at nine?” Noting he was skeptical about such an approach, he pointed to the potential fallout of such a decision.

“The benefit to the CRD of a little bit more revenue is outweighed by a controversy that is not supported by residents,” he said.

The idea of expanding parking revenues to help defray the rising costs of maintaining and operating CRD parks has been brought forward multiple times now by parks staff. Each time it has been discussed by elected officials, however, it has not received support, largely because of public outcry.

LETTER: CRD should scrap plan for parking fees at parks

CRD board vice-chair Rebecca Mersereau of Saanich reminded her colleagues that the public needs to be encouraged to visit parks using such alternatives as car pooling, transit or active transportation. She raised the spectre of clearing ever-increasing areas for parking, when the CRD needs to find new ways to address its climate goals.

Director and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps offered her view of using new fees to shape park users’ behaviour.

“While this was brought up as revenue generation, it really is about demand management,” she said, noting the most frequently visited parks require the most maintenance.

She gave a Victoria anecdote as further explanation: “When we wanted to distribute parking (around downtown), we started charging on the street in front of businesses and made it free for the first hour in parkades.”


 

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