Saanich is one step closer to possibly seeing outdoor activity shelters in various municipal parks for pandemic-friendly socializing.
During a Sept. 14 meeting, Saanich council voted unanimously for an exploratory report looking at options for adding up to six shelters to local parks so residents can spend time outdoors during adverse weather.
The move came at the recommendation of Coun. Zac de Vries after speaking with several residents.
The goal is to “facilitate healthy socialization and play” for residents’ health and happiness all winter, he said, adding that he’s seen “an explosion” of park use since the COVID-19 pandemic as residents moved their workouts, meetings with friends and picnics outdoors.
During the discussion, Coun. Nathalie Chambers voiced concerns about the potential environmental impacts of the shelters and the possibility that they’d provide a space for drinking in parks. De Vries told Black Press Media that he can understand the concerns about natural areas but feels adding shelters to parks would be a “non-issue” because the areas are already established for park activities.
Mayor Fred Haynes added that the district would “make sure that the shelters are used in an appropriate way” as the goal would be to support “wholesome” use. “We’re not blind to potential downsides,” but the staff report will explore the full scope of the matter, he said.
Haynes also cited strong community support for the potential shelters.
Staff plan to present council with a report with options for moving forward in time for the 2020 rainy season. A report could be presented to council as early as Sept. 28. Residents are urged to submit their thoughts.
Haynes plans to write to local business owners and managers on behalf of council asking that they consider adding shelters to public outdoor spaces to add covered areas for socializing.