Victoria council to review road closures at Beacon Hill Park
VICTORIA -- This Thursday, Victoria city council will be receiving a report from staff outlining community feedback on road closures throughout much of Beacon Hill Park.
In April of this year, the City of Victoria temporarily closed many roads at the park to vehicle traffic on weekends only. One month later, it expanded those closures to seven days a week in order to create more space for pedestrians to physically distance at the park.
“I think it’s good that the cars are out of here,” said Rick Hudson, a James Bay resident that visits the park regularly.
Another park user, Alan MacLeod, agrees.
“I feel very positive about the closures and I’d be happy to see them continue,” he said.
According to a staff report that will be presented to Victoria council on Thursday, not everyone feels the same way.
“The majority of people want some kind of vehicle access restored to the park,” said Lisa Helps, the Mayor of Victoria on Tuesday.
The city conducted an engagement survey with accessibility groups who use the park and the community as a whole.
Roughly 50 per cent of survey respondents reported that the road closures had a negative effect on their park experience.
Meanwhile, approximately 30 per cent said they didn’t mind either way.
Another 20 per cent said they had no opinion on the matter, while zero respondents selected the response that said the changes had made a positive impact on their experience in the park. It’s important to note that no respondents skipped that question while answering the survey.
“I would like to see the council take a good look at it,” said Joanne Neubauer, president of the Action Committee of People with Disabilities.
She says those road closures make it very difficult, if not impossible, for some people with mobility issues to access certain parts of the park.
“We try to park as close to where we want to get out and walk,” said Neubauer. “If we’re walking we can’t do that, so I think parts of the park will be off limits to a lot of people who get peace from going to a place like that.”
The Friends of Beacon Hill Park group also wants those roads opened again and calls the original idea to close them in the first place a mistake.
“Our opinion of it was that it was totally unnecessary and it excluded people from the park,” said Roy Fletcher, chair of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park. “There was no way it was socially isolating people or assisting the social isolation of people.”
James Bay resident Hudson adds he thinks a middle ground could be found.
“I think there should be places for accessible parking for transportation for people with disabilities,” he said. “Have some type of compromise.”
Talking with the mayor, there looks like there may be some type of compromise coming soon.
“We did it for the summer and we said that we’d accept feedback,” said Helps. “We said that we’d adjust accordingly and that’s my hope about what we’ll do on Thursday.”
Council’s decision could lead to the removal of signs and the reopening of some of currently closed roads to vehicle traffic.