Opinion: Centennial Beach crowds just the beginning

We can always build more houses, shops, schools and hospitals as well as create new parks, playgrounds and recreation facilities. We can also construct more highways and bridges and rapid transit lines in a never-ending effort to accommodate a region’s population that knows no bounds.

But when it comes to beaches, well, it’s not quite that easy.

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Centennial Beach, that jewel tucked away in Boundary Bay, has been making headlines this summer because it’s just too darn popular, its 650-stall parking lot filling up on weekends and spilling the overflow onto local roads. The situation has likely been exacerbated by the short-term closures of a few other area beaches due to water quality issues, but it’s also giving us a peek into the future.

I suspect that for every hundred or thousand people that are added to the region’s population, a certain percentage of them are going to go to the beach on a sunny summer day. Add another million people to the region in the next 20 years and you’ve got a lot more beach goers vying for a finite amount of sand.

When there’s a demand for something, typically either the public or private sector responds, but you can’t build another beach like you do a school or a shopping mall, so what’s the answer? Creating additional parking at Centennial Beach by covering up more natural habitat is a non-starter and charging for parking isn’t going to deter outsiders, who are used to bucking up, one little bit, although it would certainly irritate locals who don’t have to pay to park anywhere in Delta. Shuttle buses might be the best option, presuming you’re keen on taking transit to something in your back yard and there’s room on board for the cooler, barbecue, umbrella, snack bag, etc.

I guess there could be opportunities elsewhere along the region’s waterways to potentially create beaches, although the environmental fallout would more than likely torpedo any such undertaking, which means we’re left with what we’ve got.

What we’ve got is going to be a lot more crowded in a region of two million people than it was when there were just one million of us. And as we march toward that three million mark, it’s hard not to look at Centennial Beach as a harbinger of what’s to come.

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