Strict parking and hiking restrictions introduced last year in Deep Cove brought a measure of relief to the village’s traffic-weary locals, but the recreational hot spot is far from the only one in Metro Vancouver under severe pressure from an increased numbers of visitors.
Planners and politicians like John McEwen, the mayor of Anmore and the head of Metro Vancouver regional parks, say the region is in need of more parks to serve residents and tourists — and more transit buses to haul them there — if there is any hope to smoothly satisfy demand for access to the outdoors.
“Careful what you wish for, but these parks are so amazing and the population growth has been so crazy,” McEwen said. “People want to get out into our parks and it’s really causing some challenges.”
McEwen said recreational areas around his village, like Belcarra Regional Park, “are at capacity at 9:30 a.m. on a beautiful day. … We now have signs alerting people several miles back on connecting roads saying the park is closed, don’t even come up here.”
McEwen wants the region to buy more land for parks, particularly in areas with rapidly increasing densities. And Metro Vancouver must continue talks with TransLink about expanding its service into recreational areas, he added.
“We don’t want to discourage people (from) coming out to the parks. The key thing we need to work on is accessibility through transit.”
In the case of Deep Cove’s popular Quarry Rock trail, district staff say it was never intended to be more than a local community resource. But traffic to reach the path is causing gridlock, frayed tempers, and bad driving.
Last year’s rule changes limited parking in a dedicated village lot to just three hours — not a lot of time for those intending to hike the popular trail then enjoy a bite to eat. This summer, longer duration parking is available in an overflow lot from July 8 to Aug. 25, and it was also available last weekend. Street parking is for short stops and it’s in high demand. Meanwhile, large tour buses that flout a stopping or parking ban on neighbourhood streets in Deep Cove risk a $500 fine, according to the district.
Those who do find a parking spot may also find they need to wait at the trailhead for a chance to start their hike. The district has limited the number of people at the Quarry Rock viewpoint to 70 at a time, and park rangers have taken to counting heads to limit access to the area on busy days, according to the district.
Steve Ono, the district’s acting general manager of engineering, parks and facilities, attributed some of the village’s rapid rise in popularity with tourists to actress Kate Winslet’s apparent love for Cove eatery Honey Doughnuts. Winslet has in the past tweeted her affection for the doughnuts and has been spotted in a shirt from the shop. That star support, coupled with the crushing popularity of the Quarry Rock viewpoint as background scenery for dating profile pics and Instagram posts, caused traffic in the area to skyrocket the last few years.
Local residents seem to be largely appreciative of the efforts the district has made, Ono said. “I think probably a lot of residents would rather see us be more restrictive rather than less,” he said.
District staff have acknowledged that parking in Deep Cove can be time consuming and frustrating and, despite the changes, they advised people against driving to the area on several days last year.
Lynn Canyon Park, another popular district recreation area in the district, had similar restrictions go into effect last year.
Through the summer staff asked visitors to consider going somewhere else to give the park and its neighbours a break. In August, staff advised in a tweet: “Don’t waste half your visit viewing the park through your windshield while you wait for parking. Consider coming by bike or public transit.”
Other areas overrun by visitors include spots like Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, Mount Seymour and “probably the whole Sea to Sky corridor,” Ono said.
He said the idea of introducing pay parking for parks — like that in effect at the base of the Grouse Grind — has come up in the past “and it will probably come up again. It’s another tool in the tool box.”
Alistair Knox, the owner of Arms Reach Bistro in Deep Cove, said he was against the parking restrictions when they were first proposed, but he found business to be about the same after the rules went in. He figured it may take a few seasons to determine whether the restrictions had any effect. The weather seemed to be the biggest determinant of visits to his restaurant, he said.