District of Squamish (DOS) council again had to address concerns of some Garibaldi Highlands residents about weekend parkers on local streets.
At its committee of the whole meeting held virtually on July 14, council responded to a letter sent by neighbourhood resident Chris French (the father of Coun. John French), who sent a photo depicting mountain bikers’ “Sunday afternoon picnics” on Torbet Place.
Bikers come to the area to access the local trail network, and the congestion is particularly noticeable on weekends, he said.
French expressed several concerns in his June 14 letter, noting that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the visitors are not adhering to distancing protocols. As well, as a former volunteer deputy chief of Squamish Fire Rescue, French observed that parked cars obstruct hydrant access.
This isn’t the first time that area residents have addressed council directly, with several presenting to council almost exactly a year ago.
French’s letter came up at council’s special meeting on July 7, with general manager of community planning and infrastructure Gary Buxton submitting a report at Tuesday’s meeting regarding what the DOS has accomplished and what it plans to do.
Buxton noted that so far, the DOS installed several no parking signs at the north end of Perth Drive in 2019, while Bylaw Enforcement recently installed a no parking sign at the northwest corner of the Perth intersection at Pia Road to prevent vehicles from parking too close to the intersection.
As well, Buxton explained that to direct riders to the parking hub at Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School, wayfinding signs have been installed in local roundabouts and the TrailForks app indicates that the school is a parking hub.
However, signage doesn’t amount to much without enforcement, and Buxton noted that “seasonal policing is now alive to this issue and area” while adding that bylaw enforcement is done as resources allow. Residents can also expect to see park ambassadors in the area as on upcoming weekends, they will be assigned to trailheads with a specific focus on the Perth area.
Future projects that the DOS is set to undertake are: traffic calming measures on Highlands Way North, which will have a knock-on effect on Perth; requesting, as part of the 2021 budget, better active transportation on Perth, and possibly narrowing the road at intersections; and improving the traffic hub signage.
Buxton’s report also analyzed potential pitfalls to possible solutions, noting that a resident-only parking program would require staff and budget to implement while only shifting the problem elsewhere, while the District does not own land to construct a parking lot in the area. The report also talks of finding ways of improving the hub to boost use.
Despite the strikes against it in the staff report, Coun. Doug Race came back to the possibility of resident-only parking.
“None of these other things seem to work. We just have not had any success controlling the problem and I can’t imagine it’s getting any better based on the correspondence we’re getting,” he said.
Mayor Karen Elliott responded that resident-only parking would move the problem elsewhere instead of solving it. “Shuffling parking from one block to another isn’t a solution. It’s just moving the pain around the community. We’ll still get the same amount of letters,” she said.
Elliott, instead, recommended working with the mountain biking community to find solutions, pitching ideas such as shuttles to trailheads or developing other parking hubs.
As for the existing parking hub, Coun. Armand Hurford acknowledged that at the Smoke Bluffs, it took some time to take hold, though with climbing having a “more focused” footprint than mountain biking, he felt there needs to be better signage to improve the situation.
“The [Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School] hub should take the load off and it should do a better job than it’s doing,” he said.
Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association (SORCA) executive director Helen Beynon said the hubs that the District has set up across town are “a great start”, providing amenities such as washrooms and bike-wash stations, but echoed calls for better signage to point people there.
“We definitely want, as a mountain biking community, to be respectful of all the places where we’re recreating,” she said. “We definitely know that there have been complaints about the parking up at the end of Perth, so we have encouraged people through our newsletter and through social media to use the adventure hubs.”
***Please note this story has been corrected as of July 16, 1:44 p.m. It removes an incorrect statement that Hurford said mountain biking is more popular than climbing. He did not say that. Rather, He said climbing is "more focused" than biking.
In a clarification he later wrote to The Chief, Hurford explained he meant that climbing is more concentrated in the Smoke Bluffs and is thus easier to manage. On the other hand, mountain biking can be accessed from many neighbourhoods, and is therefore harder to manage.