Hundreds line Penticton's Lakeshore Drive to protest proposed changes
Clifford Martin said his Wednesday evening protest rally was a big success, sending a strong message to the city not to mess with parking along Lakeshore Drive at Okanagan Lake.
Martin organized the rally in response to two proposals put forward by the Waterfront Revitalization Committee, both of which included switching large portions of the current angle parking along the route to parallel parking.
“We had at least 300 people there, possibly as many as 500 over the course of the evening. At one point there was about 250 gathered,” said Martin.
Among the visitors were Mayor Dan Ashton and Coun. John Vassilaki. According to Martin, Ashton stayed for a few minutes but Vassilaki stayed for an hour-and-a-half to hear what the protestors had to say and answer questions.
“They were concerned about why we were getting rid of the angle parking, why one-way traffic rather than two-way,” said Vassilaki. “What really surprised me is that nobody mentioned anything about safety. We are trying to make that street a little safer and nobody brought it up. Mostly, they were concerned about losing all the parking.”
Vassilaki points out that the two options for restructuring the Okanagan Beach area are the result of work down by the Waterfront Revitalization Committee and there is much more work to be done before a proposal is ready for council to consider.
“It has a long way to go, with a lot more input coming in, not only from professionals but from the public as well,” said Vassilaki.
Martin said the size of the protest should indicate to planners how much opposition there is to removing the angle parking, adding that he has trouble finding anyone in favour of it.
“There were so many cars down there, some couldn’t even park,” said Martin. “I think this will totally put an end to this nonsense of a one-way street and parallel parking.”
While Vassilaki has concerns about changing the traffic and parking patterns, he also has concerns about the safety of the current angle parking. A large motorhome or SUV parked beside you, he said, can completely block your view of oncoming traffic as you try to back out.
“That is a huge safety concern. And the same thing with kids running around all over the place as you try to back out, it’s a nightmare,” said Vassilaki. “I refrain from parking on the angle there for that reason.”
But Vassilaki said some of the changes, like one-way traffic, will cause problems. Rather than the current turnabout near the SS Sicamous, the plans would see traffic forced onto major thoroughfares to make a beach loop, also making it harder to access businesses on Lakeshore Drive.
“That is going to create chaos on Westminster Avenue as well, with all the traffic going back and forth. It is going to block up all those streets … we need them for all the people coming off the highway and going east and west,” he said.