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Petition slams Belcarra parking fee as 'cash grab' as hot weather draws crowds

Efforts to manage parking at Belcarra Regional Park, including parking fees and fines for parking on Bedwell Bay Road, come as park officials and Port Moody police brace for a busy weekend due to a spate of hot weather
A petition has been launched opposing pay parking at Belcarra Regional Park, which includes White Pine Beach at Sasamat Lake.

Pay parking now in place to manage demand at the popular Belcarra Regional Park is getting some push back even as park managers gear up for a warm and busy weekend.

A petition launched at calls the $2 per hour pay parking scheme a “cash grab” at a time of increased demand during a pandemic.

“No family should need to pay to go hiking in the regional park around Sasamat Lake/White Pine Beach. No one should have to pay $48 a day to park in a regional park that their taxes already pay for. If you want to fish early in the morning when few people are around, you should not need to pay to do so,” states the petition by David van Hemmen. 

Some people appear to agree with him, as nearly 1,000 people have signed the online petition, with some people commenting that the charge isn’t fair.

“Welcome to Metro Vancouver, where you can’t even go outside for free anymore,” states Michael Ainsley.

The petition comes as park officials plan for a busy weekend and Port Moody police are warning people not to park on Bedwell Bay Road, or risk a $100 fine and have their car towed.

When the pay parking scheme was put in place April 1, Metro Vancouver parks chair John McEwen said the pay parking fee wasn’t supposed to generate revenue but was put into place to encourage turnover at the popular park.

But van Hemmen’s petition states that people already manage their demand because when parking is full, they leave.

“If the parking lot is full, you can't go. Everyone that lives nearby knows this and adjusts accordingly. They come early to hike or bring their family for a nice day at the beach,” he writes.

“This region is already expensive and its residences already pay taxes that more than pay for the park.”

The efforts to crack down on parking follow problems with parking in recent years where people blocked the road and left their cars in an effort to get into the popular park.

Officials are expecting another busy spring and summer — extra park staff have been hired for Belcarra and will be out this weekend — and Port Moody police have already posted warnings to people not to park on Bedwell Bay Road and to not bring booze to Belcarra picnic areas or Rocky Point Park.

The Port Moody Police Department has already had to deal with disturbance calls associated with alcohol use and impaired driving at Sasamat Lake, according to a statement by Sgt. Ian Morrison.

That booze restriction doesn’t apply to 10 Port Coquitlam parks, as well as numerous other parks in the region, including North Vancouver and New Westminster, which permit alcohol, if used appropriately by adults of legal age.

Buntzen Lake, another popular park in the region, is expected to be busy as well, and BC Hydro, which operates the park, has a number of rules and notices on its website, including transit options.

Parks officials are encouraging people to choose parks “in their own area” and to not travel across the region.

A spokespersons for Metro Vancouver parks also recommended people walk, cycle or take transit to parks to avoid parking issues and to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from others at all times, including in parking lots.

Planning for a busy week at parks comes as sunny skies and temperatures of up to 25 degrees Celsius are expected to dominate B.C.’s Lower Mainland Saturday.

Yet socializing together comes with a huge warning as cases ramp up during the province’s ‘third wave.’

Modelling released by the province indicates that if British Columbians don’t reduce their contacts, new COVID-19 cases could surpass 2,000 daily by the end of the month. 

— with files from Stefan Labbé