By MAXINE LEICHTER
I was dismayed to learn that the Active Transportation Plan that has been before the Salt Spring Island Local Community Commission (LCC) proposes to remove between 31 and 42 parking spaces from the Ganges core to make room for wider sidewalks and outside seating. Part of the stated intention is to improve access for the disabled.
If they had asked someone who is disabled, like myself, they would have heard that wheelchairs and walkers likely come to town in a car and that many disabled persons manage by walking slowly, or using cane or crutches.
As it is, I mostly visit town in the early morning or late afternoon when parking is more plentiful. If close-up parking is substantially reduced, the options for me and others will be even more limited.
The plan also ignores the needs of Ganges businesses that are already disadvantaged by a lack of parking. That is why just turning more regular spots into handicap spots is not a solution.
The suggestion was made that substitute parking could be created in the upper ArtSpring parking lot on Seaview Avenue. But how are we going to get able-bodied persons to fill up the far-away lot to leave the places in town for the disabled?
I was a commissioner on the Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission when this plan was commissioned. It was part of an attempt to rectify lack of accessibility like curb cuts and crosswalks in the area between the post office, Thrifty Foods and Mouat’s. Yet the plan completely ignores this area.
Throughout the public consultation, little if anything was stated about removing parking spaces from town. People will not complain if they don’t know there is a threat, although I have often heard non-disabled persons wishing for a “car-free” Ganges.
The plan does have some good suggestions, such as slowing traffic through town. But the commission was told the study was needed to apply for grants to various improvements such as more curb cuts, better sidewalks and possibly more crosswalks.
Although no specific plans are yet in place, please do not wait to express your concerns until parking places are being ripped up. You can speak at the LCC meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at the former Salt Spring Island Middle School (SIMS). Warning: that location is not disabled-friendly because of limited parking nearby or a steep climb uphill from Rainbow Rd.
If you cannot attend, you can email the Local Community Commissioners at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop off a note at the CRD office on McPhillips Avenue — if you can find a place to park.