Offshore Ahousaht residents frustrated by lack of parking in Tofino

Melissa Renwick, August 4, 2020

Off-shore parking stalls on Main Street near the First Street dock in Tofino are full,  on July 31, 2020. (Melissa Renwick photo)

Tofino, BC — 

Every two weeks, Amy Jack travels from her home on Flores Island to Tofino for groceries.

With fewer boats running and less passengers allowed onboard due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 40-minute commute has become more stressful than usual.

“We rely on Tofino for essential services,” said Jack. “We go there to grocery shop, we go there to get our gas [and for] our hospital visits – the list goes on.”

On a recent trip into town, Jack returned to her parked vehicle on Main Street. A $50 ticket sat beneath her windshield wiper.

With the increase of tourists in Tofino during the summer months, residents from the surrounding communities, such as Ahousaht, are struggling to find open off-shore parking stalls. In a race to catch their boats home, some are forced to leave their vehicles in the four-hour parking designations, said Mariah Charleson, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council vice-president.

“There are many families who can only go to Tofino once a month – young families, young mothers with three or four children,” said Charleson. “It’s much more difficult to get the essential services that you need when there’s that many more people in the town of Tofino with all of the tourists.”

Ahousaht residents, like Jack, have started sharing their parking tickets on social media in effort to bring light to the issue.

“This ticket is a $50 ticket, which now costs me $90 because I have to pay $20 each way in-and-out of Ahousaht,” said Jack. “And if I can’t get a boat, I have to charter a boat, which is $150 to $200.”

Despite mounting frustrations, there are no plans to increase the amount of offshore parking in Tofino, said Bob Macpherson, District of Tofino chief administration officer.

“We did increase it a few years ago,” he said. “There’s nothing that we’re looking at now to increase the number.”

Due to how the municipality budgeted back in March – at the beginning of the pandemic – there are fewer bylaw officers working this summer than what there typically would be, said Macpherson.

“We hear from Tofino community members that they feel they’re singled out for parking tickets,” he said. “We hear from visitors that they’re singled out for parking tickets and we hear from permit holders who feel like they’re singled out for parking tickets. Everyone feels like they’re targeted but there’s nothing like that that happens.”

While the amount of offshore parking stalls in Tofino may not be changing anytime soon, Macpherson said the municipality is trying to find ways to accommodate the local communities.

Due to COVID-19, offshore residents are staying in their communities and getting ticketed because they haven’t renewed their permits.

“We’re trying to find a way to work on that,” said Macpherson.

In the meantime, Jack is fighting her ticket and has filed a complaint with the district. 

“It’s kind of irritating that we have to deal with this every single year,” she said.