By Bill Cleverley, Victoria Times Colonist, February 26, 2012
Victoria could stage trial closures of some roads in Beacon Hill Park to gauge public opinion before deciding on whether to implement permanent closures.
City staff have been asked to come up with options for implementation of a traffic management strategy in the popular park, including the possibility of trial closures, says environment and infrastructure committee chairwoman Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe.
“They would use temporary bollards and things so people could see how it would actually work,” Thornton-Joe said Saturday.
“So, people would get a better understanding that you can still go into the park,” she said, adding there would be certain areas where you could “park and watch the cricket or still park and look at the petting zoo.”
Depending upon what staff recommend, a trial closure could last anywhere from a couple of weeks to six months or a year, she said.
The committee has also asked for a detailed schedule of the proposed work plan with a breakdown of costs for each phase of the $530,000, five-year traffic management project.
Any changes have to be ratified by council.
“There’s definitely some concerns with cost and timing and addressing the public’s concerns of where they can park and where the access points are,” Thornton-Joe said.
In an effort to address issues such as speeding, drivers using the park as a shortcut and nearby office workers using internal park roads for free daytime parking, the traffic management plan would convert some internal roads into multi-use paths.
The plan stalled just before last November’s municipal election after a public hearing at which a number of people lined up on both sides of the issue.
Councillors decided then the path of least resistance was to have more dialogue with residents before making any changes.
The idea was never to close all the roads in the park, but to eliminate the ability of people to drive through the park. Motorists would still be able to drive in and out of the park and, in fact, some parking areas would be improved. There would be new signage and construction of new bicycle and walking trails.
Coun. Ben Isitt, also a member of the environment committee, said he would favour more drastic measures.
“I strongly support eliminating vehicle traffic in the park,” Isitt said.
The transportation plan attempts to balance traffic problems while recognizing that park users include the elderly, people who are disabled and visitors from outside the city so quality access and parking is required.