High expections don't line up with reality
Since I moved to Harrison nine years ago the issue of pay parking has been on the table and the hot topic of conversation.
The first council meeting I ever attended was on this issue. I have attended every meeting I could since then dealing with the matter and I have found the response from most in the village to be overwhelmingly negative.
Why does every different council keep trying to push this year after year? I understand the arguments of the “pro” people saying that it will generate revenue for the village and alleviate the “parking problem” on the Esplanade, but I wonder how many of those people actually understand the situation, or the revenue it could possibly generate (the actual revenue is much less than what is being proposed by the parking companies).
The “expected” revenues proposed by Go Park are based on 300 parking spots being 100 per cent occupied seven days a week for the entirety of June, July and August. This is ridiculous.
I live on the Esplanade and for the past few years have seen many available parking spots on the beach front on all but the busiest long weekends. This implies to me that this company knows nothing about our village, and our council has done very little to inform them or come up with a realistic model. They have proposed to us the maximum possible revenue, but have named it “Expected Revenue”.
High expectations are great, but not when formulating a new business plan.
I have heard the presentations from the different parking companies telling us how “successful” they have been in Whistler and White Rock (and heard from friends and business owners in Whistler and White Rock to the contrary) and yet I am still thinking that we are not anything like Whistler or White Rock.
We do not have thousands of residents, nor millions of tourists. We are not on the U.S. border catching every American that comes to visit our country, and we do not have one of the world’s best ski resorts and have never hosted the Olympics. The closest community I would compare us to is Squamish, who have mountain climbing, hiking, windsurfing/kiteboarding, mountain biking etc. (like what we have here and should expand on), but no pay parking.
Squamish has an advantage on us in that they are on the way to Whistler, and not exclusively a destination spot.
Harrison Hot Springs has a natural beauty, and very little else at the moment. There are very few activities that people can do here, and even our name is somewhat of a misnomer.
For the entire time I’ve lived here and operated in the tourism/hospitality industry the most dreaded question I get asked every day is “where are the hot springs?”.
It’s hard to explain corporatism to the weary travelling tourist that saw signs on the highway and came here expecting something like Banff, Radium or Halcyon Hot Springs. I am actually embarrassed to tell them that unless they have a serious 4wd vehicle with spare tires and four hours to kill, that their only option is spending $200-$300 a night at the resort or $12 to soak in the '70s looking public pool on the corner.
Every member of our current elected council had something to say about making a natural, outdoor hot spring on their election platforms, yet I have not heard a single thing about this since they were elected. It’s all been about pay parking and park land being re-zoned to make new, empty condos.
At the moment, I think we would be better suited to find new ways to bring people to Harrison than to keep the freeloaders away from our beach (which seems to be the main argument for pay parking).
Getting rid of the few people that actually come here now will not then automatically bring in a higher-paying class of people, it will just bring in less people. If we want to rid the beach of BBQers, then let’s get one of our by-law officers to do that.
If we want more affluent people here, then let’s offer them a reason to come here. Unneeded foot bridges in the residential areas and a new village logo on a lapel pin are not attracting tourists. If in the future we see a massive increase in the number of visitors to Harrison and parking becomes an issue more than two or three days a year, then we should revisit the issue with more information and a more realistic model.
I love Harrison Hot Springs. I love the people, the atmosphere, the view, and all the feedback I get from the visiting tourists that have never experienced a place quite like this before.
I would love to stay here and keep doing this, but I’ve just gone bankrupt with one business and the other one is not far behind (partly due to restrictions on our hours imposed by council, despite our proven track record).
At this point, pay parking will only hurt our village’s businesses further, and put the final nail in the coffin of Harrison Hot Springs tourism.
Layback Lounge (and formerly Beach Potato)