Friday, September 29, 2023
September 29, 2023

Saturday use of ArtSpring parking lot appreciated

Some island visitors braving the busy summertime Salt Spring Saturday Market crowds recently have found a small miracle: a great place to park. 

“Five Saturdays now,” laughed Local Community Commission (LCC) member Gayle Baker, who has been “staffing” the locked chain at the usually closed parking lot above the ArtSpring theatre building on Seaview. “It’s full by 10:30 a.m., and then they leave, and even more come.” 

Baker was handed the keys through a trial arrangement with ArtSpring, with a promise to personally attend to people parking there — and to take responsibility for clearing them out if they don’t leave at the end of the day, including agreeing to pay for a tow truck if it became necessary. ArtSpring — as the Island Arts Centre Society — leases the entire property, including the second uphill lot, from the Capital Regional District (CRD); that arrangement was first laid out in the 1990s when the society transferred ownership of its land holdings there to the district.

Baker said people have been so grateful to find a spot, they quickly agree to her pleadings to ensure they leave in time — and they’ve all followed through, allowing her to lock up an empty lot each evening. 

“I figure it’s 140 to 150 people, mostly tourists,” said Baker, who spoke at length about her weekend adventures during the recent LCC town hall meeting. “They are so excited that they found a place to park, and I tell them they have to be gone by 4:30 or I’m in big trouble!” 

The lot is used for overflow parking on busy performance nights at ArtSpring, but otherwise sits empty and chained-off — and not unintentionally, according to CRD Director Gary Holman. 

“The reason it was originally closed off is that it had become something of a parking lot for RVs,” said Holman, many of which had left trash behind. “The key is to manage it; ArtSpring doesn’t have the staff to take that on, so Gayle has pointed the way.” 

Baker said she’d been the “Saturday attendant” without compensation, but apparently some visitors looking to park thought otherwise. 

“It’s been the funniest thing,” laughed Baker. “One person absolutely insisted on giving me $20. So when I give back the keys next week, I’m going to give ArtSpring that $20.” 

The future of the lot is uncertain, although LCC members have said securing off-street parking around Ganges will need to happen before any further improvements are made to streets there — particularly those that might reduce the number of curbside spaces. Commissioners are hopeful that Seaview lot will be part of the solution. 

“Gayle’s demonstrated that if you manage it properly, it will be fully utilized,” said Holman. “Particularly Saturdays.” 


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