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Whistlerites speak out against pay parking at parks

Petition calling for locals’ passes hits its mark in less than a day
The parking lot at Rainbow Park—which this summer requires users to pay $2 an hour to park—was at capacity on Tuesday, June 29.

Pay parking has long been a thorn in the side of Whistler locals—to the point that its introduction in the day lots is often cited as one of the main factors which led to the ousting of Whistler’s entire mayor and council in 2011.

With the introduction of pay parking in four Whistler parks for the first time this summer—part of a new pilot project to manage increasing demand and maintain the parks—the revolt has started anew on social media.

Logan Gagnon was one of several Whistler locals to raise the issue on Facebook in recent weeks, after a Monday trip to Rainbow Park unexpectedly cost her $12 (plus an extra $0.25 service charge).

A mother of two herself with a third on the way, Gagnon couldn’t help but notice the majority of park-goers that day were families.

“[Mayor Jack Crompton] was very vocal about the fact that individuals of Whistler should be walking or biking, so immediately I think of this and I see all of these families with children, and I can relate because I’ve been there,” Gagnon said.

“I’m looking at all these families with kids and all their coolers and all of their equipment, their toys for the kids, you name it, and all I could think about was Jack Crompton saying these people should be walking or biking.”

Gagnon’s post to Facebook garnered more than 900 likes and 50 comments before commenting was automatically shut off due to sheer volume.  

In a response posted the next day, Crompton explained the main goals of the pilot program: managing parking, taking action on climate and funding park upkeep.

“It very much came out of a conviction that last year’s status quo is simply not acceptable,” Crompton said in a follow-up phone call.

“We saw unprecedented amount of visitation to our parks, which posed traffic safety issues and a burden on park infrastructure. This suite of actions intends to make our parks a better place to be, and secondly, and just as important, the parking component hopes to move us towards our climate goals.”

Aside from piloting pay parking at four parks (Rainbow, Lakeside, Alpha and Wayside) the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s 2021 “Summer Experience Plan” includes free shuttles to Rainbow Park (with stops at Meadow Park and the Rainbow Lake Trailhead) operating out of the Day Lots on weekends and statutory holidays only; privately-operated bike rentals; expanded bike valet services; enhanced animation to help disperse crowds throughout the valley; and an increase to washroom facilities, garbage and compost bins, food service and park hosts.

Limiting local traffic to parks might seem like a drop in the greenhouse gas emission bucket, but “55 per cent of our local emissions are from single-occupant vehicles,” Crompton said.

“For every vehicle that gets off the road, we chip away a bit more at that number.”

Not satisfied with the mayor’s Facebook response, Gagnon launched a petition calling for locals’ parking passes for the parks on June 28. By press time on June 30 it had already surpassed its target of 1,000 signatures, reaching over 1,400. 

“My response to his post was that he did not answer [a] single one of my concerns. He bounced around many people’s concerns and questions, and kind of went more to just the very typical response, and that’s not what people want to see,” Gagnon said.

“People want to see answers to specific questions, and that was not provided.

“I think the part that’s just most frustrating is this pilot program was implemented without community support … I feel like a lot of these issues could have been rectified.”

Asked about the online backlash, much of it directed solely at him, Crompton said he understands where locals are coming from.

“I’d just say our goal is to make our parks experience better. Last year didn’t work, and we need to make some adjustments,” he said.

“I get it. I’m the father of four kids. Getting around without a vehicle is challenging. There will be times when I have to pay for parking because I don’t have the time to walk or bike.”

That said, local officials aren’t planning on shifting gears yet.

“We intend to give this program a chance and understand what worked and what didn’t. Amending it a week in doesn’t give us the kind of information we need to make good decisions moving forward,” Crompton said, adding that he hopes people keep speaking up about their concerns.

“I certainly don’t see the impassioned feedback as a negative. It helps us make better decisions, so please continue to provide it to us. We’re tracking it and we’re ensuring it informs our decision-making.”

Questions can be directed to [email protected]