CANMORE – Bow Valley residents outside of the Town of Canmore will have to wait until at least 2022 to potentially be part of the Quarry Lake parking pass program.
While Canmore council and Town staff were supportive of seeing valley neighbours access the popular lake, it was noted the pilot program has only been running for a matter of months and is still being fine-tuned for local residents.
Whitney Smithers, the Town’s general manager of infrastructure, said they don’t yet have the information or resources to grow the pilot program; however, the municipality could make adjustments or changes in coming years.
“Obviously there have been some unintended challenges and workloads we’ve had to balance to make it happen. Our focus this year has been in making the program work for residents of Canmore,” she said during a recent council meeting.
"At the end of the season, it has been our intent to do a debrief and look at lessons learned and certainly one of the things we could come up with is access for regional residents and what the ongoing program could look for them.”
Mayor John Borrowman said residents from Municipal District of Bighorn and nearby Banff had come forward about possibly amending the program, which the Town was amicable to do. However, it is difficult to make immediate changes given it is a pilot program in its first months of operation.
“The Town of Canmore would like to modify the parking pass program at Quarry Lake to consider some of our neighbours in the valley, and perhaps even if there’s a seasonal pass next year for regional residents it might even extend to Banff,” he said.
“It’s important to note, it is a trial program and we’re learning a lot just administering the program in Canmore.”
An online petition to have residents from the MD of Bighorn granted an exception, be included in the pass or have an affordable option, has seen almost 600 signatures be collected.
The petition states the parking cost makes it cost-prohibitive for many valley residents.
At the June 9 MD of Bighorn council meeting, Councillor Lisa Rosvold asked the MD’s municipal staff to setup an inter-municipal committee meeting with the Town of Canmore to discuss the possibility.
“I’ve been involved in a number of conversations with people from all of our Bow Valley hamlets that would like to see the MD seek a solution with the Town of Canmore that would allow MD residents to purchase a Quarry Lake parking pass,” she said at the meeting.
The Town of Canmore and MD of Bighorn agreed to a six-year agreement for use of recreational services last December. The inter-municipal collaborative framework has the MD of Bighorn financially contribute for their residents access Elevation Place and the Canmore Recreation Centre.
In 2020, the two facilities have net operating costs of $2.76 million, which would see Bighorn pay $110,271 to allow residents to access them.
The parking pass was brought in this year by Canmore council that gives the Town’s residents a free pass, but charges $20 for every four hours to anyone else parking at the popular spot. In the off-peak season, the price declines to $10.
The intent is to help ease congestion and parking concerns, especially after a busy 2020 summer season saw tourists and residents flock to the lake.
The Town’s Integrated Parking Management Plan – which was approved in 2018 – prioritized paid parking and free public transit to help manage congestion and the demand for parking.
An online engagement campaign at the end of 2020 had 1,708 participants. The campaign had residents express locals shouldn’t pay to park, more parking spaces were needed at the dog park and additional parking enforcement should be expanded.
A March staff report to council estimated the parking would bring in about $200,000 each year and after operating costs and other expenses, leave the Town a net revenue of about $80,000. The funds would then be put into the associated infrastructure costs such as expanded parking spaces and new washroom facilities.
As property taxes remain the largest source of revenue for a municipality, the paid parking sees out-of-town visitors pay a share of the burden in maintaining the area.
Smithers noted any changes could mean more resources are needed and the logistics of the program would also have to be examined, modified or potentially reworked to make it work.
“We don’t know enough of what that would entail and we know it would mean additional resources, but we don’t know right now what those resources would be because we have to take some time to research what the most effective and efficient way of delivering the pass program regionally would be," she said.