A road leading to two lookouts on Kelowna’s Knox Mountain has been closed to vehicles since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
And, the city is floating the idea of keeping it that way.
Knox Mountain Drive has been closed to vehicle traffic since March 2020, to assist with physical distancing measures. While there are no plans to change that anytime soon as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the city is weighing its options for once the pandemic ends.
Now, the city is asking residents how that closure has played out and what their preferred usage of the park would be in the future via an online survey, the results of which will be presented to city council later this year.
Options outlined in the survey include a temporal sharing of the road — allowing vehicles during specific times and allowing cyclists and hikers to roam the road the rest of it — and an outright ban of vehicles on the road.
Heather Friesen, a local advocate for several causes, said she and many other Kelowna residents with physical disabilities would never be able to go up the mountain again if the road was closed. She’s started a pen-on-paper petition to voice the concern to city council and ensure it keeps the mountain accessible to all residents and tourists.
“I have a lot of memories up that hill; I’ve lived in this city my whole life and that hill is a big part of it,” she said.
City of Kelowna parks planner Melanie Steppuhn said if it comes to pass that council nixes vehicle access from the mountain, the city has a number of available options to ensure the mountain remains accessible to all, including the potential implementation of a shuttle service.
“Different mobility options are very much a part of this and very much an interest of the city,” she said. “[The survey is] about how to do that safely and how to do that in a way that shares the usage across multiple user categories.”
While the petition is in its early stages with only a page or so of signatures, Friesen says she’s heard nothing but positive feedback from people she’s spoken with.
“Not a single person in Kelowna that I’ve talked to wants that road closed,” she said.
The survey closes on May 31, and an analysis of its results — along with other relevant data — will be presented to city council for a decision sometime this summer.
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