Paid parking is only a temporary solution to regional parks' congestion problems

Parking fees at public parks have the potential to single out low-income visitors

(Unsplash/ Gabriella Clare Marino, cropped)

As the pandemic gets closer to the end, and as we get closer to summer and further away from winter, people will soon be roaming about in the warm temperatures and sun once again. Many may flock to the many parks across the Metro Vancouver area.

However, with the number of park visitors rising yearly, issues like the lack of parking spaces for people using cars for transportation and parks suffering from wear-and-tear during periods of high quantities of visitors using the parks are coming to light.

This is one of the main reasons Metro Vancouver is implementing parking fees at Belcarra Regional Park and Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, two of the busiest parks in the region that are also usually accessed by vehicles. The parking rate will be set at $2 per hour, with no limit to how long visitors can park. It is unknown how many more parks could plan to have parking fees put in place afterwards.

The Capital Regional District is also looking to implement similar plans of parking fees in nine of their local parks on Vancouver Island and raise parking fees at their regional parks for similar reasons.

The parking fee implementation has caused some criticism from park-goers, with responses ranging from people saying that it is unnecessary to introduce a parking fee to people saying that $2 won’t be a high enough charge to make a difference.

While there does not seem to be many parks with any kind of parking fee, one successful example of this is Stanley Park. While it is unknown how much revenue is made from their parking fees, the park’s value is assessed at $32 billion if it were to be put up for sale.

Looking at both sides to this issue, however, I argue that while parking fees can at least help alleviate some of the woes, this feels more of a band-aid solution, and there are better solutions.

According to Destination BC, in 2020, they estimated a six per cent increase in tourism over the next three years. However, that does not necessarily address the need to keep parks maintained and sustainable, even when that is already covered by volunteers to some extent.

While placing parking fees can help plenty of parks lower parking congestion while also making revenue, if this were implemented in more parks, who knows how much revenue and how many visitors will be lost by unintentionally pricing out lower-income people from being able to park there?

Funding and maintenance for the parks is not the biggest issue as it is the government’s responsibility. Outdoor hiker and writer Steven Threndale said that tourism advertisements are enticing tourists with what British Columbia has to offer, while also contributing to the congestion of visitors coming to the province’s attractions around Metro Vancouver.

While I think parking fees are an acceptable solution in the short-term, more needs to be done in the long-term to solve the issues of these parks.