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Pay parking coming to Spanish Banks this summer after Vancouver Park Board vote

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Beachgoers visiting Spanish Banks will have to pay for parking starting this summer, the Vancouver Park Board decided Monday night.

Park board commissioners voted 4-1 in favour of charging for parking at the popular beach, in spite of public backlash.

Commissioner Jas Virdi was against the plan, saying it's "one of the few places left in the city that doesn't charge for parking."

"It's a place for people who are struggling and can't afford places to go, to go," Virdi said Monday night. "Taking away the last sort of place that they can go for free away I think it's a little not fair."

Virdi also argued buses don't run to the beach "as frequent as they should."

But other commissioners said the park board is underfunded, adding the fees will help.

"Even though there's a group that will be sensitive about it, I think it's proper for us to step forward," commissioner Tom Digby said during the meeting.

While previewing the proposal in April, John Brodie, director of business services for the park board, noted that Spanish Banks is the only beach in Vancouver with free parking.

That leads to demand spiking "quite high during the peak season," Brodie said, which impacts traffic along Marine Drive. Staff suggested paid parking would decrease vehicle congestion, while also helping to fund upkeep along the beach.

Ahead of Monday's vote, more than 4,000 people signed a petition urging the park board to reconsider the proposal.

"This is a special place for people to come and go and enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of our city without having to put our hand in our pocket," the petition reads. "It's a rare treat."

The paid parking pilot approved Monday will begin in July for a 12-month period, starting at $1 per hour during peak season. Reduced parking charges will be in effect during the off-season.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel 

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