Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce president Brent Clancy is shaking his head over the Town of Lake Cowichan’s new two-hour parking limits at Saywell Park and along the main drag, saying it sends the wrong message and also points to ongoing tension between the two organizations.
“The big problem we have, and that other businesses have mentioned is there’s no option to extend it for more than two hours so it kind of gives the perception of, ‘you’ve only got two hours then move along’,” Clancy explained. That doesn’t serve tourism well. For a tourist town to thrive, he said, people need to stay longer, not be pushed away.
“I don’t know if that’s the best message,” Clancy said. “A lot of the businesses rely on summer tourism. We understand the idea that you’re not getting the turnaround, but I think generally a lot of the businesses’ main concern is people taking parking spots in front of their business, which some of them now are having more of them doing that.”
Clancy said, for example, parking in front of Lordco and Fields and along the side roads is picking up as tubers attempt to avoid Saywell Park.
“It’s weird that there’s no option to stay longer than two hours. It seems like it was kind of haphazardly done,” Clancy noted. He said that while the town did consult with the chamber, and the chamber did do a survey, “they definitely didn’t take any of the suggestions from the survey we did of all the businesses.”
Clancy said visitors need to have the time to explore without the threat of a ticket hanging over their heads.
“Two hours isn’t long enough to go for a swim and eat in a restaurant and walk the main strip,” he said. “Most people have to drive over an hour to get to Lake Cowichan. Then you’ve only got two hours to explore the community then you’ve got to move? That just seems weird to me. I understand the rationale. There’s only so many premium spots and you want some turnover there, I understand that, that makes sense to me. I just don’t know if it was done really with great foresight and thought.”
This isn’t the first time the chamber and town have butted heads, with funding for the Visitor Information Centre at the centre of one of their recent spats. The Visitor Information Centre shut down due to lack of funding earlier this year.
“The town and the chamber are not getting along well,” Clancy admitted. “The town has made decisions, I believe, based on emotion and not logic and well thought out things. I think past grievances that have gone back a long time from councillors have made them make decisions that are super anti-chamber I think.”
Mayor Bob Day said it was the first he’d heard of the chamber’s unhappiness with the parking situation.
“This item was on the agenda for probably three months and the chamber was notified and they did provide us information and it was taken under consideration by staff,” Day said. “I won’t deny that maybe there’s some leftover hard feelings about the Visitors Centre but that hasn’t been raised in quite a while.”
Day said he too was skeptical of the parking plan at the beginning, but now that he’s watched it work, he’s a fan.
“Overall I think, and staff believes, it’s going very well,” he said. “We have had no official feedback from the Chamber.”
As for merchants seeing increased all-day parking in their private lots, Day said it’s their prerogative to post short-term, customer-only type of signs or even create pay parking to address the situation.