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Feature - Park Place

In the paved parts of paradise, you have to put up for a parking spot

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"Collectively, if it’s to maintain parks, I guess I’m in favour of that," her friend, Quentina Siah says.

Beyond the parking lot and down a row of picnic tables near the beach, Keith Kilps is setting up his stove. Kilps stopped at Porteau on his way down from Birkenhead Provincial Park to cook himself a meal.

"I think it sucks," Kilps, who paid a dollar to park for an hour says. "That pay box over there is broken. I had to walk back to the other box. It’s a money grab."

By mid morning there’s already a lineup of vehicles trying to get into Shannon Falls Provincial Park on the Sea to Sky Highway just south of Squamish. The spectacular waterfall and boulder outcroppings attract international visitors, day users and climbers, and most of the picnic tables are already taken. Part of the message being delivered by an employee directing traffic into the parking lot is that because the ticket machine is broken parking for less than three hours is free. Anything over three hours will cost you $3.

"I think we need to support parks," says Chaim Salermon, standing near his vehicle loaded down with camping gear from a holiday up north. "But parking is a problem because you must have a bag of coins, because that’s all the machine will accept."

At Alice Lake Provincial Park, a popular destination for many people living in the Squamish region, a Volkswagen convertible pulls up beside me and two young women jump out. One woman goes directly towards the ticket box to purchase a day ticket for $5. The other girl stands by the car with her arms crossed watching her friend. I ask her how she feels about having to pay money the minute they get out of their car.

"I don’t like it," she says, turning sharply towards me.

Down at the lake where people are setting up picnic tables for Labour Day the feelings against having to pay for parking are even stronger. Jennifer McCrath and her family came all the way from Langley. They heard about Alice Lake from friends. I ask her if having to pay for parking affects a young family. She tells me that is exactly what they were talking about before I came up.

"A toll to use what is our God-given right!" McCrath exclaims spreading her arms.

But if God made the parks for the people, she’s running a little short of cash to maintain them.

Ian Pepper, section head for parks and protected areas in the Lower Mainland region, says that pay-for-parking was introduced to British Columbia’s provincial parks to increase the revenue base.

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