It’s something most, if not all, Kelowna residents and visitors have done — drive to the top of Knox Mountain for its panoramic views of the city and Okanagan Lake.
However, the city is now floating the idea of permanently closing Knox Mountain Drive to vehicles.
“There’s been an explosion of use in Knox Mountain, whether it’s COVID or the growth of the community … just walking has become a very popular activity,” said Melanie Steppuhn, a City of Kelowna parks planner.
As part of the Knox Mountain management plan update, which was last done 10 years ago, the city is asking for public feedback to determine whether there’s an appetite to close the gates to vehicles year-round.
“We’re looking to find out how people use the part, what time of day do they use the park, what are they coming for,” Steppuhn said.
“They’re all sharing the road, so, at this juncture, we’re starting launching the Knox Mountain management plan with the survey to talk about how we access the park and that is specifically the road.”
The paved road to the top of Knox Mountain is 3.5 kilometres.
According to the last city survey done in 2019, approximately 700 cars access the first lookout during the summer months every day. Around 500 access the second lookout at the very top.
The road has been closed to vehicles since the beginning of the pandemic, but the road is normally closed during winter.
Steppuhn said a year-round closure could help better manage the growing number of users sharing the road.
“A lot of different users and a lot of people on a fairly narrow road that was really not intended for this many users,” she said.
But concerns are being expressed that a permanent road closure could cut off access to people with mobility issues.
Steppuhn said the city is well aware of that and is looking at various options that would ensure access for all.
“That would bring folks who are in a hurry, only want to go up one way, maybe they want to walk down, maybe they want to walk up, come down on the shuttle,” she said.
“Maybe they’re using the park for a wedding and they don’t want to hike up and they could use a shuttle that way … so definitely looking at a shuttle as an option for mobility-impaired folks would be important.”
She also said that the city could designate specific hours of the day when the park’s gates are open to vehicles.
“We are putting forward an option of different hours of vehicular (traffic). So do you want vehicular use in the afternoon? Is it better in the evening? Do you want it to go from all day?” she said.
The deadline for the online survey on a possible road closure is May 31.