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Residents worry over loss of parking lot as Walnut Grove school limits access

School officials said the changes are for increased safety after recent incidents
Existing signs warn residents of townhouses not to park in the WGSS overflow lot, but locals say that rule has not been enforced. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Some townhouse residents in Walnut Grove are fretting about losing a place to keep their cars after Walnut Grove Secondary School (WGSS) announced an overflow parking lot will be locked each night starting July 1.

The parking lot is south of the school and also serves people using the Walnut Grove Community Centre during the day.

However, according to one local resident, about 20 to 30 cars from the nearby townhouse projects on the opposite side of Walnut Grove Drive also park there on a regular basis.

“It’s going to be a bit of a nightmare around here for parking,” said Wayne Clancy, whose family usually parks one of their two vehicles in the lot overnight.

The townhouses have two-car garages and most don’t have any outdoor parking space. There is some on-street parking on the east side of Walnut Grove Drive, but that fills up fast.

If a family has a trailer in their garage, has more than two cars, or has converted the space into a suite, as some have, they have to park on the street or in the nearby neighbourhood. Although there are signs specifically warning townhouse residents not to park in the overflow lot, that has not been strictly enforced.

A letter from WGSS principal Jeremy Lyndon, shared on a Walnut Grove community Facebook page, said the gate was being installed to “help keep our school community healthy and safe.”

“This gate will be locked and unlocked daily by our staff beginning July 1, 2021,” the letter says. Township staff will lock and unlock the gate on days when school staff are not working.

“This is a new change which may impact you and your family, residents living near the school, and community members who use the parking lot to access nearby parks and recreational spaces,” the letter said.

It noted the months-long advance warning, including signs posted at the lot, was to give “the community time to adapt.”

Clancy noted that there are families in the townhouses who have more cars than they can fit into their two-car garages, including one with four children of driving age.

“People are going to be scrounging for parking spots,” he said. He predicted some people will have to walk a considerable distance back home after finding parking.

Langley School District spokesperson Joanne Abshire confirmed the changes are coming, and noted that many schools across the district have gated parking lots that are regularly locked.

“In the past year, there have been a few incidents at the Walnut Grove Secondary School site, which prompted staff to review security, health, and safety procedures,” Abshire said. “The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority.”

Abshire did not say if a January fuel leak incident was one of the reasons for the change. On Jan. 15, the entire high school had to be evacuated and classes went online for the day after a gas tank on a truck parked in the overflow lot ruptured and leaked. Fumes got into the school.

Township staff had to clean up the spilled fuel.

READ MORE: High school in North Langley shut down over spilled fuel

On the community Facebook group, some residents joked about cutting the locks off with bolt cutters, while others bemoaned the lack of parking. Some said the school was not responsible for residents’ parking problems.

A lack of on-street parking has led to issues in the Township in the past, particularly in Willoughby, where councillors have argued not enough parking is required in new developments, and where in 2014 residents resisted 80th Avenue being widened to its long-planned full four lanes because they were using the outer lanes for parking.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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