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Paid parking, new transit route coming to Canmore’s Quarry Lake

Paid parking will be coming to Quarry Lakes Park this year as Canmore town council approved a plan that will see out-of-town visitors pay their share to enjoy the popular spot, while residents will receive a permit to avoid having to dip into their wallets to do the same.
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Noah Genier performs a back flip from a tree overhanging Quarry Lake on Saturday (Aug. 15). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – Paid parking will be coming to Quarry Lake this year.

Canmore town council approved a plan that will see out-of-town visitors pay their share to enjoy the popular spot, while residents will receive a permit to avoid having to dip into their wallets to do the same.

“It meets the needs of residents, but also manages some of the out-of-town visitors,” Coun. Vi Sandford said. “They could be receptive to paid parking if they knew their parking fees would be used to manage the infrastructure that is being heavily impacted by visitation.”

The decision will also see a new seasonal bus route to the area in 2022 with four stops, including Grassi Lakes and Canmore Nordic Centre. Residents living within 500 metres of Quarry Lake will receive up to three street parking permits per household to help with the possibility of a spill over when the Quarry Lake lots are full.

The lot parking at Quarry Lake will cost $20 for people without a pass for up to four hours of parking in peak season. During off-peak season, it will be $10. Households are able to get one free annual pass that’s linked to a licence plate and additional ones are $20.

Andy Esarte, the Town’s manager of engineering, noted it is in line with other Alberta tourism locations.

“This is about managing spillover from a paid parking program,” he said of the permits.

Under the Integrated Parking Management Plan that was approved in 2018, paid parking and free public transit were prioritized to help manage congestion and the increased demand for parking.

The funds collected would also help associated infrastructure costs such as maintenance and transit.

The operation would be contracted to Park Plus and expected to begin May 15.

A staff report also noted that expected revenue will increase in future years to an estimated $130,000.

The issue of paid parking has been a discussion topic for several years, especially as tourists have inundated Canmore during the spring and summer.

Paid parking allows a municipality to offset infrastructure costs from taxpayers to out-of-town visitors. Of course, it’s also a balancing act in ensuring residents aren’t too impacted or end up having to pay a cost they didn’t before.

Canmore’s downtown was expected to have paid parking implemented in 2020, but COVID-19 put the plans on halt for a year. They were again pushed back to 2022 after concerns of it affecting an already struggling tourism sector that’s vital for Canmore’s economy.

However, last summer showed areas outside of the downtown were also susceptible to limited parking – most notably at Quarry Lake.

For residents living within 500 metres of the Quarry Lake boundary - Peaks of Grassi and Rundleview - a residential parking permit can be applied for. A household in the area can get two free permits and additional ones are $100.

An amended motion from Coun. Joanna McCallum to have parking permits available to residents on Lawrence Grassi Ridge to Peaks Drive and Wilson Way to Kamenka Green was passed. To the north of Quarry Lake, Rundleview Drive to Deer Place and Olympic Drive to Prendergast Place was approved, with only Coun. Rob Seeley opposed.

An amended motion by Mayor John Borrowman to include all of Peaks of Grassi and Rundleview subdivisions as part of the permit was defeated.

Esarte said there will also be limited visitor passes for households.

“We were able to really respond with locals concerns with local access to Quarry Lake and how that might affect them financially,” Coun. Joanna McCallum said. “We have a real opportunity to try this resident parking program and take it for a spin.”

The introduction of a new bus route in 2022 will expand public transit, but only run during peak tourism season. When it launches next year, the route will go to Quarry Lake, the Nordic Centre and Grassi Lakes.

Esarte said the municipality is in initial talks with Alberta Parks to collaborate with the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission for the Grassi Lakes bus route.

The four stops will require a new bus, which is estimated to cost $150,000 each year to run. The report stated the Town’s share is estimated to be $75,000.

The capital project will cost $1.16 million, but $885,000 will come from provincial grants and the remaining $275,000 from reserves.

An electric bus typically costs about $1.5 million, but staff were able to find a demo bus from Edmonton with low kilometres for $890,000. An added $150,000 in costs are expected to outfit it as a ROAM bus and it can be available in four months, opposed to the 12 to 16 months for a new bus.

An estimated $120,000 will also be spent on capital costs for the four new stops.

Council directed staff in November to look at implementing paid parking to avoid congestion and parking concerns.

During an online engagement campaign, Town staff heard from 1,708 participants. Of those 891 downloaded documents, visited the FAQ page or gave input. The survey ultimately had 394 respondents.

The most common thoughts from residents were locals not paying to park, more spaces to use the dog park, more parking enforcement and parking permits expanded in the regions of Peaks of Grassi and Rundleview.

Esarte said it can also take time for new patterns to form after changes such as these, and additional enforcement would be needed to cover a greater area than proposed.

Several councillors voiced concern with the potential for increased spill over from people looking for parking in residential areas.

Estimated parking revenue in 2021 from Quarry Lakes

  • Peak season revenue: $160,000
  • Off season revenue: $20,000
  • Total revenue: $200,000
  • Operating costs: $100,000
  • Net revenue: $80,000

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that paid parking would be implemented at Quarry Lake in 2022.