It is the best of times; it is the worst of times
The picture of the proposed future for the Victoria Park Boardwalk is finally coming into focus. The possibilities and the threats are both being understood by more people. Some of the politicians are beginning to pay attention.
The bluster coming from City Hall is not quite so platitudinous or negative. Some councillors are beginning to realize there is substance in the concerns and fears of the more than 300 people who signed the petition. They realize that the 300 plus signers are only a small fraction of those opposed to the sweeping changes already adopted by council for our boardwalk. Some of them are realizing that the consultants painted a much too rosy picture of the changes. And they realize next year is an election year for city council, fortunately for us!
Because of delays and platitudes coming from City Hall, the promised pubic meeting had to be postponed. The change of seasons has meant the petitioners are starting to focus on fall and winter living and might not be available for a public meeting this late. To plan and hold a public meeting starting now would put the meeting off to near Christmas.
We have told the mayor that does not work for the petitioners. He has agreed verbally to our proposal to hold the meeting next May.
Our reasoning? Hibernating boardwalk users will likely be back full force in May. We will have done a lot more research and maybe City Council will have a more in depth knowledge of the concerns of people. And, again, it will be an election year. We will be harder to ignore.
So what issues have become clearer?
First, the core issue of a multi-modal boardwalk has been exposed for what it is. Thank goodness a lot of boardwalk users travel. We have been receiving reports from far and wide about multi-modal boardwalks.
The consultants report that multi-modals work. And they do, but at a huge price. The price is they only work for healthy, driven, disciplined people who will watch out every minute for danger all around them.
They do not work for people who move slowly, or people who have handicaps or those who are blind or hard of hearing or children or those listening to music on their mobile devices or people who want to take time to chat with someone else or for most dog-walkers . . . and the list goes on.
Most of these people in other cities simply stay away from multi-modals! It is too dangerous.
We have reports from people who have used the boardwalks in Stanley Park in Vancouver, the Municipal Park in Saskatoon, Stanford University, Rideau Park in Ottawa, Halifax Waterfront, Summerside and even Brussels, Belgium. We will undoubtedly hear about others. We hope to have people who have experienced these issues first hand present at the public meeting in May.
The second core issue is the domino effect of opening the west bound lane of the boulevard to vehicle traffic.
Domino 1. The consultants recommend the westbound lane be opened. Assume for the moment it happens.
Domino 2. Bicycles and other present users of the westbound lane would be redirected to the boardwalk.
Domino 3. The boardwalk would need to be rebuilt multi-modal style at a cost of $6.3 million dollars.
Domino 4. A large portion of present boardwalk users will continue to feel threatened and like users of multi-modal boardwalks will withdraw from using our Victoria Park boardwalk.
Domino 5. Socializing on the boardwalk will generally not be possible.
Domino 6. Most of those who enjoy the goings on while sitting in their cars will be unable to do so.
Domino 7. The city will be faced with the question of how to offer safe, pleasant alternatives for those who have no safe place to go since the boardwalk will effectively be closed off to them.
The third core issue is that most parking along the boardwalk will disappear. Again, a whole sub-population of present users will either be chased away or seriously inconvenienced. They too will have to find other much less satisfactory ways to enjoy the beauty and friendliness of our boardwalk, our park and its people.
The recommendations in the Victoria Park Master Plan have been adopted by City Council. What a shame. Some of them which have nothing to do with the boardwalk may seem strange, wasteful and counter-productive. However, for users of the boardwalk and its environs the issues above far outweigh any of the other problems in the plan.
Boardwalk users heartily endorse what Pat O’Neil said in his public commentary (The Guardian, July 30), “the (present) situation in Victoria Park is unique and better than what is available in other cities where cyclists are mixed with walkers”. (multi-modal)
Let’s make sure the promised public meeting will be a major force in altering the boardwalk section of the Master Plan as it now stands. Only when that happens can it serve the useful purpose it is intended to have. Mark your calendar for a public meeting about the Boardwalk in May 2014!!
by Maureen and Bob Hutcheson,