Park or parking lot?

Cottonwood Park is becoming something of a parking lot some days.

Recently, one night at a little after 9 p.m., I was dropped off at home by a friend.

As we drove by Cottonwood Park, there were exactly five semi-trucks parked in Cottonwood Park.

Now, it is a frequent spot for semis to pull over, some for a brief time, some for longer, some for overnight.

But more and more trucks seem to be utilizing the conveniently large area for semi truck and trailer parking.

Now, Cottonwood Park is a municipal park, frequented by children, visitors to the area, and local residents, on a daily basis.

It is not often I can look out the window and not see someone walking on the beach or parked overlooking the water.

However, there are also some other things the extremely large parking area is being used for.

It is a convenient spot for the drivers of large trucks to pull over, it seems, and there are few options, and none as scenic as Cottonwood Park overlooking beautiful Stuart Lake.

But when does a park become a parking lot?

Initially, I was frustrated with the increasing numbers of large trucks in the park, with people walking their children and pets, kids riding bikes through the park, it just seemed like a bad situation which detracted from an other wise beautiful spot, and could possible pose a danger to the park users having to navigate around the large vehicles.

There is a bylaw in place which makes it technically against municipal law to overnight in the park, but then I began to wonder, where else can these truckers stop to sleep?

The options in such a small community are limited, and in Fort St. James it appears this is very true.

I have heard comments from Rob Garden, manager of Sana’aih Market, trucks parking behind his store can cause problems with their delivery trucks.

Now, if drivers were to continue on southbound, they have few options until they hit Vanderhoof most likely. I only know of the one pull out area on Highway 27 heading south, and there is probably only room for a handful of trucks there, likely not the five which were in Cottonwood the other night.

Now to me, this poses somewhat of a problem for the community, and while I’m not sure where exactly the responsibility lies with such a dilemma, I can say I don’t think the answer is to turn Cottonwood Park into a truck stop.

But perhaps options can be looked at and ideas proposed to address the problem.

A pullout on Highway 27 where the new passing lane is going in might help.

In terms of keeping trucks out of Cottonwood, perhaps one option for the future might be keeping a pull-through for RVs for the waste station and then have parking along the front edge of a barrier moved back to line up with the edge of the Junkers model as far as the existing barrier fence goes would help to deter a lot of overnight parking by large trucks.

The loss of the large dirt area would only disappoint youngsters doing donuts in the park. Park-goers who want to sit in their vehicles overlooking the lake would still have a perfect view but be set back far enough they would no longer bother people using the beach itself or pose a danger to playing children and pets. Then there would not be the massive vacant lot space to attract semis to overnight, but there would still be more than enough open space for events and the grassy area for overflow parking or semis temporarily stopping oon the pull-through.