Car enthusiasts are gathering Wednesday night at Okanagan Beach to protest proposed changes to parking and traffic flow along Lakeshore Drive.
Clifford Martin is leading the charge. He feels the public hasn’t been given enough choice, with the Waterfront Committee narrowing the possible options down to just two, both of which would eliminate the angle parking along a portion of Lakeshore, replacing it with parallel parking.
“They gave us option A, option B without an option C to leave it as it is,” said Martin. “We’re just letting City Hall know that no, we don’t want a one-way street and no, we don’t want parallel parking. No, we don’t want all the big trees ripped out and no, we don’t want a big section of beach side either.”
That’s where the problem lies, according to Rod King, chair of the Waterfront Revitalization Select Committee. Space to accomplish changes the public told them they wanted in earlier input sessions had to come from somewhere. Overall, he said, people told them that the infrastructure need to be fixed and they wanted to see improvements as well.
“One, whatever you do, stay off the beach. It’s a small beach, let’s keep everything we have. The second thing was the path needs an upgrade and it is much too narrow. Third thing was more trees, more shade, more picnic tables,” said King. “When you take staying off the beach and you want a wider path, by default you end up having to look at traffic flow and or the parking issue.”
The two options presented during this round of public consultation, which included three public sessions and an online survey, are far from finalized, according to King.
“We will have a look at all the online comments and choices that the public has made. As well, we will be looking at the summary of the three public displays and see if there is any overall thoughts coming through on either option A or option B or other themes coming through,” said King, indicating that parallel vs. angle parking could be one of those themes. “Out of that, hopefully, we could develop a further plan, which would then be up to council. We will be open to change and I am sure council will be looking to various options as well.”
Martin, who felt the round of public sessions wasn’t comprehensive enough, said his “Save Lakeshore Drive” group is determined to send a clear message about how they feel.
“I didn’t even know about it a week ago,” said Martin. “This is to show the city that if you are going to make changes, angle parking cannot be changed and a two-way street cannot be changed. What they want to do is to make Okanagan Lake into what Skaha Lake already is. You’ve got Skaha for the walkers and the cyclists and the people that want a quiet beach.”
The changes to Lakeshore Drive, Martin said, will destroy what he calls “the best cruising strip in Western Canada.”
“Old cars go down there in the evening and it is almost like a tourist attraction. Everybody goes by and they stop and take pictures of the old cars with their hoods up,” said Martin, adding that he visits Lakeshore about 100 days a year with his vintage cars. But beyond that, he’s concerned about the logistics of people trying to parallel park.
“If somebody doesn’t know how to parallel park, you’ve got to stop the traffic, they have to try to negotiate in, which sometimes takes two or three tries. By this time, how long is it going to be before it is all backed up to the casino?” said Martin. “And they have this off-street parking. How many people with the kids and lawn chairs, towels and umbrellas are going to want off-street parking. Everybody is going to keep going around and around, trying to find that empty parallel spot, and how is that environmentally friendly?”
Martin’s group will be holding their protest rally Wednesday at 6 p.m. on Lakeshore Drive between Winnipeg and Power streets.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Everybody loves it the way it is,” said Martin.