The debate on parking along the Trail Bay waterfront is set to come up again in Sechelt’s 2022 budget discussions.
At its Oct. 6 meeting, council asked for a staff report on a request from residents of Boulevard for an immediate ban on parallel parking on their street. Those citizens said the current situation is dangerous and that the parking spaces should be reallocated to allow for a continuous and safe pedestrian walkway between Snickett Park and the shíshálh First Nation’s lands.
In their request, Boulevard residents Anne Crowley and Lana Zanazovsky presented a petition signed by over 170 area residents and users of the Trail Bay walkway. It supported turning the parking area into a lane for pedestrians to end the current situation that forces people to walk in the same lane as vehicles driving and backing out of residential driveways.
Boulevard, a single block one-way street without sidewalks, connects Trail and Ocean avenues as well as two “pedestrian access only” waterfront areas.
“It’s not safe to have cars and people walking in the same lane. You (council) would not allow that on any other street in Sechelt,” Crowley said.
A property owner on Boulevard for 30 years, Crowley pointed out that with increases in the number of electric vehicles and walkers wearing headphones, many people do not hear traffic approaching from behind. With the existing situation on her street, that could result in someone being hit by a vehicle and a possible liability for the municipality, she said.
“Thousands of people a day” walk along Boulevard in the summer months, according to Crowley. She said the increase in those numbers has been “enormous” since the Watermark development went in almost 10 years ago. With the approval of “The Strand” development at the opposite end of the waterfront walking route, she said, there will be even more people looking for places to walk in the neighbourhood.
The petition asks to ban parking and paint markings on the road surface to delineate two lanes. It suggests that a pedestrian lane be designated closest to the water and that one-way vehicle traffic continue to use the existing driving lane.
Crowley also suggested that Sechelt invest in road surface repair and maintenance along Boulevard, to ensure pedestrian spaces have a level walking surface. In her view, those are low-cost options that should be implemented immediately while the community develops a long-term plan for the future of the downtown waterfront area.
Mayor Darnelda Siegers told the presenters that the issue had been “on our (council’s) radar for a number of years.”
Options for changes to vehicle parking on Boulevard were to be discussed at council earlier this year. Those discussions were put on hold after Sechelt was unsuccessful in a federal grant application for $440,000 for redevelopment of Boulevard into a more pedestrian-friendly location. That project was to begin with public engagement about the design, including where the community wants to see vehicle parking located.
Council asked staff to develop a more “economical” redevelopment solution to be funded by the taxpayers rather than waiting for another grant application opportunity.
When asked by Coast Reporter if she would be in favour of paying for such a project through municipal taxes, Crowley said “for something that would increase the value of Sechelt, that would be a tourist attraction and that would provide something for the enjoyment of thousands of people, certainly.”
“Boulevard is just not big enough for parking, people walking and one-way traffic. Something has to go and the logical thing is the parking,” she said, adding that she believes there is enough vehicle parking close by for those who want to visit the waterfront.
“Sechelt has provided angle parking areas at each end of Boulevard and rarely do we see those filled up.”
Commenting on the need to retain parking along the street to allow people to enjoy the view from their vehicles, Crowley said that practice blocks pedestrians’ access to the same view. Engines are often left running when vehicles are parked there, which disrupts “the quiet enjoyment of the waterfront” that many of the people that she has talked to say is the reason that they visit the area.
“It’s just people that don’t want to get out of their cars, and in 2021, that is just not sustainable anymore,” said Crowley.
Details on Sechelt’s 2022 budget meeting dates and public input opportunities are yet to be announced.