Alta Vista residents opposed to 

RMOW, neighbourhood visions for Lakeside Park hinge on commercial tour operators

By Andrew Mitchell

The latest step in the Lakeside Master Plan Process and Alta Lake Access Evaluation took place on Tuesday with an open house showcasing concepts that were refined from a previous open house and online survey.

But according to some Alta Vista residents, it was another step in the wrong direction.

“We’re not opposed to the idea of upgrading the park, we’re just opposed to commercial activity in our neighbourhood,” said Linda Seifred, a Lakeside Road resident who has helped to organize local opposition to municipal plans through a property owners’ association. “They presented three different options for the park at that open house, and all three options included commercial activity… We only have a problem with the commercial activity that is being encouraged by council.”

Specifically, the residents are concerned with plans to offer a canoe/kayak rental concession at the park, which would operate in addition to the current commercial use of the boat put-in at the end of nearby Carleton Way.

The park has had a commercial operator in the past, which residents say created traffic, noise, parking problems and other inconveniences for the neighbourhood. They don’t believe commercial concessions are appropriate for public parks.

For their part, Seifred says most Alta Vista residents believe that Rainbow Park is more suitable for commercial operators, given its size, proximity to the entrance to the River of Golden Dreams, and the fact it’s not located in a residential neighbourhood.

In an online survey after the first open house in July, 59 per cent of respondents said that a commercial concession for watercraft was “very appropriate” for Rainbow Park, and 15 per cent said it was “satisfactory”. By way of comparison, only 37 per cent said Lakeside was very appropriate, while 30 per cent said it was satisfactory.

However, almost 50 per cent of survey respondents listed Lakeside Park as their closest Alta Lake park, and nearly 40 per cent live in Alta Vista.

Seifred says that residents do not object to tourists and other residents from outside the neighbourhood using the park — the proximity to the village and Valley Trail ensures that it will always attract visitors through the summer months. Most residents are used to the added traffic on the road and Valley Trail in the summer.

“This is what we want… Rainbow Park, anybody can go over there, they can have the volleyball, the canoe rentals, a concession, and do the whole party thing, and that’s fine with us, that’s what some people want. What there is a need for here in Whistler is a park where tourists and families can go that’s a quiet environment. Maybe with a little play area for children, which is appropriate for a family-oriented residential format.

“Families want to go somewhere it’s quiet, where you can read a book and not have dogs trampling over you, or people kicking balls around like you see in Rainbow Park. The park is just not that big for that, even with changes to the property.”

Residents also support concepts that might include a tennis court, basketball court, floating dock, barbecues, more green space, washroom facilities, and changes to access and parking — providing there’s no commercial aspect to the park.

“It just seems like they’ve made up their mind on (adding a commercial concession at Lakeside) without talking to residents,” said Seifred. “I would like to have seen one option in the Master Plan that didn’t have a commercial operator in there, just one, and then I’d know we were at least being listened to.”

Brent Murdoch, of Murdoch and Company Architecture and Planning, put together the draft park options showcased at the open house. He says the commercial aspect was included in the project from the beginning at the direction of the municipality, after evaluating seven different options during the Alta Lake Commercial Access-Evaluation process. Lakeside Park was identified as one of the strongest candidates, along with Rainbow and Wayside parks.

But while the commercial aspect was decided by the municipality, the different layout options for the area were designed entirely with feedback from the community.

Those options will be open for public review and comment this fall, and there will be a second online survey to determine what aspects people would like to see incorporated from the different plans presented. “It’s à la carte — choose what you want from the different options,” he said.

When it comes to the final plan, Murdoch is confident it will represent all interests.

“We talked to a wide range of people, locals, weekenders, and visitors to the community, the commercial operations, to get their thoughts on water access, access to the community, and really moved into the design process from there,” he said. “What we saw was there was a need for new park spaces, and for recreation as well. For example there’s no hard surface there, there’s nowhere in Alta Vista for tennis, basketball, skateboarding, and so forth.

“I think that those things really came clear to us after this summer, which was very strong from a visitor perspective. The good news is that summer is alive and well in Whistler, but that creates a lot of pressure on all parks and Lakeside probably felt a fair share of that pressure — and the neighbourhood, which is what we’re trying to resolve.”

After the latest round of feedback, Murdoch says the next stage will be to update the draft Master Plan and present it to council for their input. He recognizes that some residents are against the commercial concession, but otherwise says that most proposed changes to the area have been well received.

Councillor Nancy-Wilhelm Morden says the RMOW is aware of the objection to the commercial concession, but says few parks in Whistler can offer better access. She also believes the traffic problems with the last concession to operate in the park are being resolved by channeling traffic to Lakeside via the highway.

“We still have some work to do with the concession, that’s clear, but hopefully we will come up with a good plan that everybody will like,” she said. “There is obviously a dichotomy in opinion as to how the park should be used. Some people in the neighbourhood look at it as a neighbourhood park, but it’s not and was never meant to be. It’s for the community as a whole and for tourists. It’s always been an access point to the water, and it’s the closest park for people staying in the village.”

Moving the project ahead so construction can get underway this winter for completion in the summer is also a priority for the RMOW.

“The bigger we make our parks, the happier people are going to be,” she said. “If you go by any of the (Alta Lake) parks on a Saturday or Sunday in the summer they’re just jammed, and this summer it was busier than a lot of people have ever seen it. So anything we can do to open any park up even a little more is going to help improve that experience.”

The RMOW is already expanding Alpha Lake Park in Creekside after acquiring more waterfront land from a neighbour.

The park options and next survey will be posted online at www.whistler.ca/Community/Parks_Trails/Lakeside_Park.php.

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