Penticton boaters saved until 2014

Boaters who use the city parking lot at the north-east corner of Skaha Lake won’t be paying for parking this season.

Planned parking fees for the boat and trailer lot at the Skaha Lake boat launch won't be implemented until 2014.

Planned parking fees for the boat and trailer lot at the Skaha Lake boat launch won't be implemented until 2014.

Boaters who use the city parking lot at the north-east corner of Skaha Lake won’t be paying for parking this season after the City of Penticton decided to delay parking fees until next year.

The five councillors present voted 4-1 in favour of a new parking fee structure for the popular launch site. Starting in 2014, boaters can expect to pay $5 for half a day or $10 for the full day to park their vehicle and trailer in the lot. An annual pass costs $70 for residents, or $105 for non-residents.

Coun. John Vassilaki was the lone holdout, concerned that this was putting an unnecessary burden on local boaters.

“We’re going to be penalizing the citizens of Penticton just so we can make a few dollars off the tourists,” said Vassilaki, who has been advocating that the city build a day-moorage marina for years in order to promote boating.

“They want to have their fun here, but they want to have a place here where they can put the trailer their boat is on without having to be harassed or having to pay and worry about the time they have to leave,” he said.

It will still be free to launch a boat at Skaha Lake. According to the staff report, the parking fees are only for the designated areas within the parking lot next to the boat launch area, or along South Main. The other lots in Skaha Lake Park remain free for use.

Purchasing an annual pass doesn’t guarantee a space at the Skaha Lake boat trailer parking lot or along South Main. It still remains first come, first served.

Coun. Judy Sentes admitted she fielded several calls about the addition of parking rates, including one from a family who said they put their boat in the water there between two and four times a week. But they became agreeable to the changes, she said, once they understood there would be an annual pass available.

“That becomes a cost for them, but they were very open to having a pass. At $70 they would have that paid for fairly quickly,” said Sentes.

Mark Attrill, co-owner of Penticton Yamaha and Marine, which neighbours the city parking lot, said they have heard from both sides in the boating community.

“I don’t think there is going to be a lot of conflict over it,” said Attrill, adding that from what he hears from the tourists, paid parking at boat launch sites is common. “We’ve heard people that are disappointed that they have to pay, they are used to it being free. Others that are saying you have to pay everywhere else.”

Coun. Wes Hopkin argued it is time to shift the burden of paying for the lot to the users, and that cities around the world are moving towards people paying for parking.

“There are a lot of people in this community who don’t have boats, or who don’t drive their cars much and shouldn’t have to be forced to pay,” said Hopkin. “They are going to pay on their taxes if we don’t charge the actual users.”

The delay in implementing the new fees is because the parking meter to be used on the site is still on order, and won’t be delivered before the end of the 2013 boating season. But when the City of Penticton does install it and activate the new parking fees, it should pay for itself quickly. At a cost of $10,000, it works out to about 95 non-resident passes.

“Being able to install the machine in time for this season is not going to happen, so it is more appropriate for the fee to commence as of 2014,” said Anthony Haddad, director of development services.