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Squamish's Fisherman's Park needs expanded parking lot: rafting operator

As the Squamish park's popularity grows, Hazzard Roney is advocating for better infrastructure to accommodate demand.
On a typical sunny weekend day, the parking lot of Fisherman's Park, like many other parks in the town, has become filled to the brim.

While it's an ongoing problem across town, the owner of a rafting guide company says it's a particularly big issue for Fisherman's as it's the only good access point for rafting in town.

"So for rafting companies and private people, that's the only place you can take a canoe out of the river or take a canoe down to the river. Or take a raft," Hazard Roney, owner of Squamish Rafting.

"So Fisherman's Park is a very important location for all people using boats because of river access."

Roney also noted that the location of the area is special because it's on a floodplain, making it very hard to impossible to develop.

That means the network of trails, the beach, and river access will almost certainly stay the same, even as the rest of the town develops.

It's an area used by so many user groups, such as beachgoers, fishers, rafters, walkers and dogs, he said. The terrain is also flat, making it very kid-friendly.

In light of this, it's crucial for the parking area to be developed in a manner that will allow for greater access for the ever-growing numbers of people.

There are three main issues that Roney is hoping authorities can address.

First, the increased traffic in the area has many neighbouring residents concerned about the safety of their children.

Roney said that the roads leading up to the park are often play areas for kids, and the municipality would do well to put signage labelling it a play zone with lower speeds.

While the legal speed is 40 kilometres per hour, the polite speed, he said, is about 10.

The next point involved loading zones.

Roney said that with Fisherman's Park being a key access point for rafters and canoers, it would be worth putting in designated loading zones, so commercial and private users can unload their gear.

It would be good for boaters to have an area close to the river, as it can be quite a struggle to haul a heavy canoe or raft, he said.

Finally, the parking lot itself should be expanded and paved, Roney said.

The lot cannot handle the amount of demand that it has on a sunny weekend day.

People from out of town flock to the river now, and it has become a popular spot.

The area should also be paved, as the dirt road is not suitable to high-volume traffic, he said.

The District itself would benefit from making these changes because it needs access to the dike, which also is a popular spot for walking, Roney noted.

An improved parking lot would also be helpful for emergencies, providing a good access point for ambulances, fire trucks and other larger emergency vehicles, he said.

"We expect the leaders of the town to have the foresight to attack those problems before it's too late and be proactive. 2021 — time for upgrades. More people coming. There's not less people coming, there's more people coming. And we want them to come," said Roney.

"It's kind of weird, because you've got one team advertising, 'Come to Squamish, come to Squamish,' and you've got another team saying, 'Well we can't upgrade the parking.'...You're inviting people to town but you're not giving them anywhere to park."

Fisherman's Park was part of the study area for the Eagle Viewing Area / Siyich'em Reserve Dike Master Plan, which was endorsed by Squamish Nation and District of Squamish councils in 2020.

For its part, the District issued a written statement regarding the matter.

"The District's Bylaw department and other key staff are working with the variety of park users, and adjacent neighbourhood residents to identify, understand and address some of the emerging challenges in this area," reads the statement.

"Staff are looking closely at all options and the environmental impacts of each in order to determine the best approach. "

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