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Free ride abides at West Vancouver’s park parking lots

West Vancouver council has let the air out of the tires on a plan that would have seen visitors charged for parking at the district’s most popular parks.

West Vancouver council has let the air out of the tires on a plan that would have seen visitors charged for parking at the district’s most popular parks.

At council’s request, staff had prepared a report on the potential revenues that could be raised for upkeep at Whytecliff Park, Lighthouse Park, and the Nelson Canyon Park/Whyte Lake trailhead starting in 2017 with an eye to possibly expand pay parking to Ambleside, Dundarave and John Lawson parks after consulting with the Ambleside and Dundarave Business Improvement Association later in the year.

But the plan didn’t make it out of council chambers Monday with the majority of the councillors present panning the idea.

Coun. Craig Cameron said he regretted that the idea had even resurfaced after being debated and rejected in 1997 and 2003.

“I’m trying not to be hyperbolic here but this is probably the most unappealing proposal that has come before me in five years on council,” he said.

Pay parking would just push park users into nearby residential neighbourhoods in search of free parking, and the bureaucracy required to enforce the new rules would probably be more trouble than it’s worth, he added. If West Vancouver residents were to be exempted, which the proposal called for, parking revenues would be just more than $30,000 per year at the three parks, which would take six years to break even once the meters had been purchased and administrative costs paid, Cameron added.

“I mean, that’s ridiculous,” he said.

Cameron suggested there are probably other areas of the budget that can be cut if parks maintenance is suffering.

Charging for parking would be tantamount to penalizing people for enjoying nature, Coun. Bill Soprovich argued.

“I think ... we should be leaders in West Vancouver and say to the Lower Mainland municipalities and to the province that a walk in nature should be free,” he said.

Much like the proposals from 1997 and 2003, Soprovich suggested “that the report be put on the shelf and collect dust.”

Only Coun. Nora Gambioli spoke in defence of the proposal, making the distinction that providing free temporary storage for a one-tonne SUV is not the same as free access to the park.

“The fact is, there are a lot of people coming from outside West Vancouver who are bringing their vehicles and bringing their takeout food and bringing their families, and it costs West Vancouver residents, at the moment, a lot of money to clean up garbage cans, keep the washrooms clean, maintain the parking lots and fix the trails,” she said.

The options before council, she added, were to raise West Vancouverites’ taxes, charge visitors to parks or let them fall into disrepair.

The vote was applauded by members of the Ambleside and Dundarave Business Improvement Association. For them, scarcity of parking in the business district is already a sore point and they bristled at the hint of waterfront park users hogging free customer parking closer to Marine Drive.

Instead, BIA executive director Stephanie Jones pushed council to develop a “holistic parking strategy” that addresses the area’s needs over the long term, including the creation of a feasibility study for building a new parkade in the neighbourhood.

Coun. Christine Cassidy, a big proponent of pay parking, was not at Monday’s meeting. Neither was Coun. Peter Lambur.