This story has been amended since first posting.
Free parking at two of North Vancouver’s most popular parks and trailheads is coming to an end in the spring.
The District of North Vancouver and Metro Vancouver are set to begin charging vehicle owners by the hour to park in Lynn Canyon Park and Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, from March 1 to Oct. 31.
District council’s stated purpose in the plan is to better manage demand and encourage visitors to try more sustainable modes of getting to the trails. Prior to the pandemic, Lynn Canyon Park was getting one million visitors per year. That amounted to about 2,500 vehicles per day, during peak season, jockeying for about 100 parking spots. The district has recently paved and expanded the lot to 129 stalls but the suspension bridge remains closed due to COVID-19.
Under the pilot project, Lynn Canyon visitors will pay $3 per hour for a maximum of three hours. Lynn Headwaters, which is under Metro Vancouver jurisdiction, will charge $2 per hour, and there will be no time limit on the length of time a vehicle may stay parked. District council has asked that money raised from parking, which district staff estimates will be between $315,000 and $635,000 per year, be earmarked for maintenance of the parks. Overstaying your welcome or failing to pay for parking before hitting the trails will result in a fine of $75.
District of North Vancouver households will be able to purchase an annual season’s pass for $30 that exempts them from the hourly rate. But the three-hour time limit will remain.
Staff estimate one-quarter of the park’s visitors are district residents. Another 35 per cent are coming from elsewhere in the Metro Vancouver, while 20 per cent are coming from further afield in B.C. or Canada. The remaining 20 per cent are international visitors.
Fully anticipating that putting a price on parking spots will result in cheapskates scouring the nearby residential streets for a free alternative, district staff will start introducing resident-only and time restricted parking in the nearby neighbourhood before the parking fees come into effect.
The plan still requires a vote by council, but district council members were all eager to see the pilot project begin when they discussed it during an informal workshop meeting Monday night.
The only debate centred around the exemption for district residents. Some on council, including councillors Jim Hanson, Lisa Muri and Betty Forbes thought $30 was too much.
“I think that should come with everything else that they pay in the district,” Forbes said.
Coun. Mathew Bond, however, questioned the logic of instituting pay parking to manage demand, but then exempting the people who live nearby.
“I don't think people that live here should be treated any differently, because it's a demand management strategy,” he said.
Coun. Megan Curren stressed the need for council to improve transportation options for people getting to the canyon.
“We want the most convenient option to also be the most sustainable option and the most affordable option, and that's not the way it's set up,” she said. “I think parking is a highly contentious issue in our municipality. I understand that in a car addicted society, it's hard to change behaviour, but we have to.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story specified that Lynn Canyon parking would be limited to three hours but did not mention Lynn Headwaters. There will be no time limit on parking there.