Back in November 2020, the Town announced it was applying for provincial grant funding for the “Beach Front Tourism Expansion Project.” Readers are excused if they have never heard of this project. Neither had we. To this date, it does not appear on the list of “Town Projects” on the Town’s website.
Nor was it mentioned in the Town’s Strategic Plan created in 2019, nor in the amendments to the Strategic Plan in September 2020. However, “implementing parking expansion and traffic calming along the waterfront” does appear on the growing list of ad hoc projects added to the so-called strategic plan last month – see related story in this issue.
Nor does the project show up anywhere on the 10 year Capital Project budget forecast supporting either the 2020 Town Budget or even the current 2021 Town Budget!
Development of infrastructure to support tourism or any other sector of our local economy is not in the scope of the Town’s Official Community Plan (but maybe should be, given it’s an integral component of Qualicum Beach?). Nor does the Parksville / Qualicum Beach Tourism Association provide directional guidance of missing or underbuilt infrastructure for tourism (but maybe should?).
All of which is to say — here we go again.
The province decides to spend $19.4 million on yet another COVID-19 band-aid through a Tourism Dependent Communities Initiative to, in the words of Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, “provide good-paying jobs now, create valuable assets for communities, and attract more visitors in the future.”
So, the Town scrambled to identify a project, submitted a grant application and, as announced in late March, was approved to receive $700,000. No time for public consultation… grant deadlines, COVID etc., the regular excuses. Qualicum Beach residents are left scratching their heads — who decided that this was the most important thing we could do to enhance our QB tourism sector, while not compromising our continued enjoyment of our hometown?
To round out this initial article on the Waterfront Tourism Expansion project, we include a summary of what the Town has proposed, and end with a series of questions that a QB resident recently posed to Council and Administration about the plan.
As described in the Town’s March 31, 2021 media release, their proposed enhancements to the Waterfront are:
- “100-150 new parking stalls along the central waterfront by infilling approximately 640 meters of roadside ditch and laying gravel and guidelines along the south side of Highway 19A. This is a very cost-effective way to make the waterfront more convenient and accessible for both residents and visitors.
- ‘Servicing kiosks’ equipped with water and power hook up for mobile vendors/food trucks. These spaces will be furnished with covered seating areas to accommodate all-weather use.
- Traffic calming measures, including two pedestrian activated crossings along the waterfront, to create a safer experience for all waterfront users.
- Parking meters to regulate overnight use (10pm – 8am). Overnight parking is currently prohibited along the entire 3km stretch of the central waterfront, but frequently occurs without authorization. Parking meters will allow the Town to manage overnight parking and limit it to designated areas. Payment and enforcement is to be monitored by a third party, such as Robbins Parking.
- Dedicated overnight RV Parking. Install 6-8 RV sized spaces along the central waterfront, equipped with power and water hook up. This will provide legitimate overnight parking infrastructure between 10pm – 8am, and utilize off-peak hours, allowing the Town to accommodate tourism accommodation in the area without constraining daytime parking, when demand is highest. Payment and enforcement will be monitored by a third party, such as Robbins Parking.”
QB resident Val Dyer raised the following questions and concerns in an email to the Town in mid-April, specifically related to the dedicated overnight RV parking sites:
- “What is the rationale for establishing such sites? Such sites are unnecessary, I believe, as we are fortunate to have many provincial and private camping parks well within driving distance to our beach. Planning ahead (and making the necessary reservations) would prevent the need to camp out at the beach overnight. On the rare occasion that a traveller finds him/herself caught by the onset of darkness and/or tiredness while passing through Qualicum Beach, s/he can easily pull over and park overnight on a street or in a vacant parking lot. Most, if not all, modern RVs are well equipped with both AC and DC lighting and have ample sized water tanks to house plentiful amounts of water so it would be under the most extenuating circumstances that RVers would find themselves drastically short of potable water.
- Having formal sites would encourage locals to enjoy an overnight stay at the beach, and defeat what I believe is the Town’s intent to provide an emergency venue, for travellers who are passing through and who have been caught short of a campsite, to have a safe spot to camp for the night.
- While a fee will be charged (with collection being taken by a private company) will the fee offset the cost of having such a company on what is essentially a retainer? The company will still expect to be paid a basic fee whether or not there are RVers at the beachfront from whom to collect the overnight fee.
- Who will police the RVers to prevent excessive noise? Permanent residents live well within earshot of the proposed camping area.
- Because an RV is considered a private residence, alcohol consumption is permitted within the four walls of the RV. Who will police such behaviour to ensure that it does not spill over onto public areas on the beachfront and beach?
- RVers may have invited guests come to visit them while they are camped out. Again, who will police these events to prevent them from turning into parties which may, again, spill over into public areas?
- Who will monitor the overnight campers to ensure that they do not become permanent? What mechanisms will the Town have to ensure that local RVers do not become permanent fixtures at the central waterfront and/or move during the day only to come back each night to camp?”
Second Opinion QB encourages all readers to express their enthusiasm for, or concerns about, the changes proposed for the Qualicum Beach Waterfront by Town Council and administrative staff.