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Pemberton applies for grant funding for new park and ride

Current, unsanctioned park and ride belongs to Lil'wat Nation

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The Village of Pemberton (VOP) is seeking funding for a park-and-ride lot as part if its transit plans.

The new, 50-vehicle lot would be located at 1420 Portage Rd., between Signal Hill Elementary School and the forthcoming Crestline building.

Following its Jan. 22 regular council meeting—in which VOP council unanimously approved a $1.3-million provincial grant application that would pay for the entirety of the project—Mayor Mike Richman said he thinks park-and-ride lots are "an essential part of any good transit system."

"We'd eventually like to develop a couple of them," he said, noting that there has been discussion with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) about installing one at the Village's new recreation grounds on Pemberton Farm Road East.

Richman said that the lot fits into the VOP's transit vision, which includes a regional transit system that will connect Vancouver to Mount Currie with regular service.

The regional transit stakeholders—the SLRD, the VOP, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, District of Squamish, and Lil'wat and Squamish Nations—have put forward a funding model to the province that would draw on a proposed motor-fuel tax to offset the cost of the service. The stakeholders are aiming to implement the service by fall 2019.

"We want to double the number of buses on the road in the short term and then continue to grow the service in the mid and the long term," said Richman.

A proposed plan for the project includes extensive landscaping, lighting, a paved lot, and a comprehensive storm-sewer system. If it goes forward, the VOP would be responsible for maintenance, and the costs would be incorporated into its transit budget.

There is already an unsanctioned park and ride next to the Information Centre, at Highway 99 and Vine Road.

The property, however, is owned by the Lil'wat Nation, and the First Nation is considering developing it," said Richman.

"There is no formal agreement for use of this land, and Lil'wat Nation has recently indicated that development of that site in the near future is likely," said Richman.

In an email to Pique, Kerry Mehaffey—CEO of the Lil'wat Business Group—said that the First Nation hasn't given any formal notice regarding development, but is considering it.

"My understanding is that (the park and ride) has been there since before we acquired the property and we've informally allowed the use to continue as a community benefit," wrote Mehaffey.

"We are starting to look at opportunities for the property and we are supportive of the Village of Pemberton working towards an alternative location." With a growing population—and increased transit options on their way in the near future—demand for a park-and-ride service is likely to grow in the future.

Pemberton resident Cheryl Haba said she finds the current park and ride handy, using it to carpool to Whistler, or when she goes on backcountry adventures.

That said, Haba believes the current lot would benefit from lighting and some upgrades. "There's one big area by the big willow tree that floods—it's like a giant lake," said Haba, adding that she would like to see a system that allows for overnight parking at the proposed park and ride.

"Say you're going hiking for a few days, you're not allowed to park overnight in the current lot," she said. "But at the same time, I know they have to guard against people parking their RVs and choosing to live there."

Asked if she ever uses the park and ride to take pubic transportation, Haba said that she doesn't, citing the infrequency of service connecting Pemberton and Whistler.

"I'm one of those people who have given up on the bus," said Haba. "It doesn't run when I work ... I park my car, get into my friend's vehicle and go."

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