City divides community over car use on Clover Point
FEBRUARY PROVED BLUSTERY for the city’s Clover Point and the community that loves it. For the past two years it has been a construction site for a pumping station for the region’s new sewage treatment system. The City’s park’s department recently (it seemed) decided it wanted to reconfigure the public areas as well.
The initial proposal for Clover Point park/parking area was presented to City of Victoria council on February 11 by Thomas Soulliere, director of parks, recreation and facilities. It recommended permanently closing the loop on Clover Point to cars and creating a small parking lot towards Dallas with 17 spaces—resulting in a net loss of 73 parking spaces in the 4.2 hectare park.
The motivation seemed to be the Parks department's desire to “complete a continuous pedestrian waterfront route for the breakwater at Ogden Point to Ross Bay beach access at Memorial Crescent.” Environmental concerns were also cited as the area is part of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
A decision was needed very soon, council was told, in order to have the work coincide with the last phase of construction work on the pump station.
The car-free loop area would be full of picnic tables, benches, lounge chairs, public art, orca sculptures and painted asphalt. But seniors, people and families with disability issues decried the idea of losing vehicle access. Longtime residents, through social and traditional media, relayed their fond memories of visiting the point to watch the waves on stormy days from the warmth of their vehicles, take an elder to an oceanside tea, or load up their mobility-challenged kids for a family outing. A Times Colonist editorial termed the proposal to deny car access to the Point “insultingly dismissive of a large proportion of the population,” who “don’t count as much as the younger, healthier, less-inconvenient people in the City’s vision of an urban utopia.”
Citizens also condemned the top-down, hasty decision-making. Given that the sewage treatment construction has been going on for a couple of years (and the planning around it much much longer), it is hard to imagine why the public had not been more purposefully engaged sooner on design options for Clover Point.
In deference to the public outcry, City council asked Parks staff to come up with another option. In total, three options were issued on February 18. One was as outlined above with minor tweaks; the second allowed for 14 stalls and a drop-off/turnaround at water’s edge on the east side of the loop (8 regular and 6 accessible spaces), with 11 more up top. A third option, the staff report noted, would be to leave the loop as it is with full vehicle access until a long-term plan for the park is developed. As the report stated, “This approach would provide future opportunities for public engagement on all potential changes, including those relating to transportation and parking.”
At the council meeting on February 25, all council members except for Charlayne Thornton-Joe (who was in favour of more car access towards the west), approved the second option. (Stephen Andrew voted against it as well on the March 4 ratification.) Councillor Geoff Young got an amendment approved eliminating pavement painting beyond that necessary for marking bike and walking lanes (initial designs included more fanciful illustrations and games). This option was projected to cost $275,000, though reduced somewhat by amendments for less painted asphalt and furniture.
With 25 parking spots, it means a loss of 65 from the 90 on offer for the past 60 or so years. Is this a good thing in a growing city (one in which all forms of transportation are increasing along with the population)? Time will tell.
Despite the rush by City staff and council to make the decision, it now seems that this is just an interim design and that the public will be consulted after all, at some point. Meanwhile, feel free to comment here.