Work has begun by Parks Canada to pave the parking lots on the Garrison Grounds in anticipation of meeting more demand for parking and having more concerts.
Choosing to asphalt the Garrison Ground parking lots is really a vote against heritage, the environment, the health benefits of public open space and a vote for the car. As with widening roads, increasing parking capacity is short sighted. All it really does is create more demand.
People come from all around the world to visit Citadel Hill, a designated national heritage site-they don’t come to see new parking lots freshly asphalted. FHC had a meeting with Parks Canada officials about the decision to pave the Garrison Grounds. We were left with the impression that they had not done enough homework before making their decision.
Some examples: There was …no user study conducted (is the parking serving visitors, staff or off site clients?). There was no exploration of options such as carshare, bus-only, or higher parking fees to increase turn over and availability. They were unaware they could have higher water fees because the Water Commission has a storm water charge based on impermeable surface. They also have no landscaping plan in place. They do not know how the parking lot will connect with the Citadel (if it even will).
To date Parks Canada have not previously enforced requirements that concert promoters rehabilitate the grounds post-concert, and they were unaware that the city had paid ~$50,000 for a long-term agreement to access an artificial tarp to put down in advance of the concerts on the Common that might be available to Parks Canada. Why not build the rehabilitation requirement into the promoter’s contract and enforce it with a bond or insurance?
A direct known outcome of climate change is that Halifax will have more extreme weather events – this means lots of rain and lots of runoff. Anyone who walks or bikes along Bell Road in any season, especially winter knows that the sidewalk turns into a water-course. Asphalt on the Garrison Ground will make this worse.
There is limited public open space on the peninsula. If there were too many people arriving at the Public Gardens by car, it would not be acceptable to the public to have part of the Public Gardens paved. It would not be acceptable to pave more of Central Park if there were more New Yorkers who wanted to visit the it. Why should we accept the Garrison Grounds being paved for expanded use as a parking lot?
Now that the decision has been taken to pave the parking lot the likelihood that it will be unpaved in the course of the next 20-30 years in about zero. Its disappointing that Parks Canada would take this decision but it is also time for HRM to have a better handle on what it wants for public open space and that parking lots are not it.
(Peggy Cameron recorded an interview on CBC Info Morning (Friday, Nov 22, 2103 ) with more detail on this topic.)