Notes from the second All Candidates meeting

The Community Association of Oak Bay and the North Henderson Resi9dents Association jointly hosted the second and final all candidates meeting here in Oak Bay. Again, I took notes but I know I missed a few questions:

  • Oak bay lodge
  • Bowker creek
  • 4 story limit
  • Amalgamation
  • Oak Bay lodge delay
  • Source of campaign funds, specifically developers
  • Secondary suites
  • Communication
  • Secondary suites committee
  • Role of council
  • Coordination of municipalities
  • Oak Bay lodge parking
  • Deer


All You Need to Know About Stormwater Runoff

Bike lane with bioswale on Shelbourne
Bike lane with bioswale on Shelbourne

Courtesy of Sightline Daily, which is from the similarly-named Sightline Institute out of Seattle, everything you need to know about stormwater:

An overflow of 15 million gallons of sewage and stormwater fouls the shoreline of picturesque Port Angeles, putting the waterfront off limits to the residents and visitors of the Olympic Peninsula town due to health concerns.

Portlanders are socked with some of the nation’s highest water utility rates in order to pay for the city’s $1.4 billion “Big Pipe” projects.

Northwest scientists document coho salmon dying in urban streams with their bellies full of eggs, perishing before they can spawn.

The culprit in each of these stories is the most mundane of villains: the rain. As rainwater streams off roofs and over roadways and landscaped yards, it mixes a massive toxic cocktail. It scoops up oil, grease, antifreeze, and heavy metals from cars; pesticides that poison aquatic insects and fish; fertilizers that stoke algal blooms; and bacteria from pet and farm-animal waste. A heavy rainfall delivers this potent shot of pollutants straight into streams, lakes, and bays—threatening everything from tiny herring to the region’s beloved orcas to our families’ health.

Given we are still stalled on the Uplands sewage separation, let alone any sort of treatment of our stormwater, I think fixing this problem is a long time coming. That being said, the CRD has been pretty successful with their source control projects and have some good information about bioswales, both designed to prevent all those pollutants mentioned above from getting into the storm drains in the first place.

FCM Sustainable Conference mini-update

I have been having a great deal of fun attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Sustainable Communities Conference this week, talking with all sorts of people from Nunavut to Newfoundland.

  • Registering people, despite being a largely dull job, was actually fairly interesting, because you get little 30-sec bios of where they are from, something that happening there, etc.
  • A great highlight was a bike tour of various rain gardens and low-impact developments — including the CRD Building and the Atrium — with the Fraser Basin Council‘s Angela Evans and the CRD along with 11 people from across Canada all at various skill levels with bicycling. It was interesting see some of our infrastructure from a new cyclist’s eyes, especially the abysmal Johnson St. Bridge (it just can’t go fast enough) and just how good some of it is, including the superlative Galloping Goose (although they tended to right two abreast, not realizing that this wasn’t just a recreational cycling path).
  • Talking funding of active transportation with the FCM’s Green Municipal Fund people, Transport Canada, and Infrastructure Canada.
  • Listening to CropLife Canada spin that they are not an evil GMO-pushing multinational-front that hates pesticide bans. Honest! They just want “science-based” decision-making. Preferably at the federal level where they can buy the votes to prevent pesticide/herbicide bans like Oak Bay’s from ever seeing the light of day.

I am off today to see more, if the 12-hour days don’t get me first.

Rethinking the Shelbourne Corridor

Shelbourne Corridor Map. Credit: Municipality of Saanich

Saanich has recently launched a project to rethink the Shelbourne corridor, or at least the section from the Victoria border to Feltham Rd. in Gordon Head. The project is partial update to the venerable Shelbourne Local Area Plan, last changed in 1997. To kick off the whole thing off, Saanich held an open house to ask for people’s opinions on what they think should be done. I managed to make the last hour of the open house and collected a few notes.

Clearly evident was that Saanich is still very much in the information gathering phase. Of the nearly two dozen large boards spread around the room that showed everything from traffic volumes to population densities and average ages to zoning, only one of them had a recommendation on it. That was the proposed Bowker Creek Greenway project, which confusingly does not follow the path of the now-culverted Bowker Creek beside Shelbourne. Not surprising, this was the board that attracted the most interest and more comments. All of the rest of the boards were about the current state of the corridor today, to help people with context for their suggestions.

To hep run the event, Saanich had invited members of the two community associations that overlap the study area, Mount Tolmie and Camosun. They had also generously given space to a number of community groups including the Bowker Creek Initiative, who have just launched their draft 100-year vision which partially overlaps with the Shelbourne corridor, and the Shelbourne Memorial Tree Project, who seek to remind people that Shelbourne was planted with trees in 1921 as a memorial to the lost soldiers of the First World War, designed to deliberately invoke memories of France’s leafy avenues. Also in in attendance was UVic’s Office of Community Based Research, who have been working with Green Map project around Victoria. OCBR’s Maeve Lyndon, who came to talk to Oak Bay Rotary about the CBR and the Green Map, Theresa, and Ken Josephson, who recently worked on the Oak Bay Green Map, due for launch tomorrow evening were all in attendance.

Beyond providing information, Saanich was also interested in collecting people’s visions for the corridor and thus the questionnaire they handed out not only had a few questions about where you live and how often you use the corridor and how, but had a large map of the corridor on the other side, for free form drawing and collecting of ideas. I don’t envy the planners who now have to decipher hundreds of people’s scribblings and make a coherent report out of it.

One of the groups clearly missing was Hillside Mall. Although they are wholly within the City of Victoria, much of the traffic that comes to the mall drives on Saanich roads. They also recently finished a new plan, although the details of that haven’t been released yet. Their Renovations page still says “Watch this space”. I also understand from talking with the Bowker Creek people I have talked to that their plans don’t involve daylighting the creek, which currently runs on the western edge of the mall, by Doncaster Road and Thrifty Foods.

If you want to give them feedback, they sadly don’t have the PDFs of the boards they had up online yet, but the Shelbourne Corridor page on Saanich’s website lists contact information for the planner in charge of the project.

Quick note from the Bowker Creek forum

Public comments at Bowker Creek forum
Public comments at Bowker Creek forum on Jan. 23, 2010

The Bowker Creek Initiative held an open house on Saturday to unveil their 100-year plan (PDF, 6.5mb) to the public and collect comments on it. They setup in an empty storefront in Hillside Mall, maximizing accidental discovery of the event and thus more feedback. Going to where people already are is a great way to reach more of them and I would love to see the bigger malls in town setup a semi-permanent place for such events.

On the plan itself, I haven’t had a good chance to pick through it, so I will leave commenting on that to another day but at first glance it looks very bold and thought-provoking.

Bowker Creek Open House next week

On January 23rd, the Bowker Creek Initiative will be holding an open house (PDF) to discuss their new plan, the 100-year The Bowker Creek Blueprint. Interestingly, they are holding it in a mall, specifically the Hillside Mall, near the Zellers entrance, from 10am to 2pm. Hourly talks at 10am, 11, 12 and 1 will be held about the plan.

The blueprint itself, all 125 pages of it, can be viewed online (PDF) as can the executive summary (PDF) for those in a rush. I haven’t had a chance to dive into it myself, due to other pressing matters, like the 5th edition of the Official Ubuntu Book, which I co-author, and that little thing called university.

Come help clean up Bowker Creek

Browning Park (Image Credit: CRD)
Browning Park (Image Credit: CRD)

The Camosun Community Association is having a Bowker Creek Cleanup this Saturday, Nov. 14th, from 9:30 – 11:30 am in Browning Park.  Bring workgloves and gumboots. (Google Map)

Browning Park is also the site of the next piece of the Bowker Creek Greenway, with Saanich Parks building a paved multi-use trail ala the Galloping Goose. Saanich Parks claims this is the first piece, CRD says the path they built through the BC Hydro lands (yes, those BC Hydro lands) as the first. Regardless, it is exciting to see the trail slowly being knit together.

Although we didn’t get as far as Browning Park, I did manage to join Ian Graeme of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society and Brenda Beckwith’s Grassroots Restoration (Environmental Studies 482) class for a walk along the creek from the Oak Bay border to Hillside Mall. Ian was, as always, a great source of knowledge and inspiration and I hope some of the students caught his bug. Given the headwaters of the creek are in UVic, it would be great to see more UVic students involved. Maybe we will see a few out this weekend.

Ian talking to the class
Ian talking to the class

The new trail section is partly funded by the LocalMotion program from the Provincial Government, which also put money towards the Henderson Road bike lanes. LocalMotion has been an excellent source of money for bicycle and pedestrian projects over the years, as you can see from the full list of funded projects (PDF).

The next question is: who will step up to the plate and finish the next section? It wouldn’t take much to take Oak Bay’s section from good to truly world class, some of which involves connecting the parts that already exist already have together. Victoria could do wonders in reversing their short-sighted decision to culvert their section of the creek in the later part of the 20th century. Time, and a lot of community effort, will tell.

Bowker Creek Celebration Walk

Explanations before we head out
Explanations before we head out

This Saturday was the Bowker Creek Celebration walk, co-hosted by the Oak Bay Community Association and Bowker Creek Initiative The walk started out at the upper parking lot of the Oak Bay Recreation Centre with it’s their freshly-painted lines and walked down the creek towards the mouth. The point of the walk was to showcase the need for a greenway or trail along the whole length, not just a few disconnected lengths. Sadly due having a generally crazy day, I was only able to make the first part, but I did take a few pictures, which you can see in my flickr set.

The demand for better access to waterways is not unique in the Bowker Creek area. Across North America there is an effort to “daylight” creeks, that is to remove the culverts and let them flow in natural streams along the surface. The High Country News near San Francisco recently ran a whole series on “rebooting” creeks in poorer neighbourhoods in San Francisco.

Site of Broom Pull – View Larger Map

Nearer to home, a group in Seattle won a victory about the Thorton Creek underneath the Northgate Mall. Too bad Hillside isn’t doing anything with the section of Bowker Creek that runs underneath the western edge of that mall as they expand. However, the BCI is hosting an ivy pull on the 27th of June between 10am and 12:30pm across the creek from the existing community gardens.

Belated post on the ducky race

Been a little bit busy recently with real life, so I have been sitting on these pictures of the Bowker Creek Rubber Ducky Race. This is the 11th annual hosted by the Oak Bay High Environment Club, but actually the 12th race ever hosted. The weather cooperated for the event, with a nice light breeze and beautiful sunshine. Given the low volume of water in the creek and the breeze, this meant that the race was actually up the creek, not down it. Of course, what you really came here to see are some pictures:

The youngest volunteer and some of her fellow volunteers
The youngest volunteer and some of her fellows

Urban Raincatcher Gazette with Freya, a volunteer
Urban Raincatcher Gazette display with Freya, a volunteer

NDP MP Denise Savoie chats with with a member of the public
NDP MP Denise Savoie chats with with a member of the public

David Lock calls everybody to announce the start of the race
David Lock calls everybody to announce the start of the race

Sonora and fellow student just before the start
Sonora Godfrey and fellow student just before the start

Students watch the ducks cross the line
Students watch the ducks cross the line
Oak Bay Mayor speaking with with a member of the public
Mayor Causton speaking with with a member of the public

David Lock marshalls his volunteers
David Lock marshalls his volunteers/students

Oak Bay Councillor Pam Copley speaking with a member of the public
Oak Bay Councillor Pam Copley

Students wait with boxes of ducks for the start of the race
Students wait with boxes of ducks for the start of the race

The ducks are in the water
The ducks are in the water!

David Lock announces the results
David Lock announces the results

Kudos to Sonera and David for organizing the event and all the people that came out and bought rubber ducks. It was a great event and hopefully this will keep Bowker Creek and all the work that needs to be done in the public eye and in their mind.

Followup on BCI’s presentation to council

As I mentioned on Tuesday, Monday night’s council meeting was started with a presentation by Tanis Douglas, Bowker Creek Initative Coordinator, and Jody Watson, chair of the BCI, about the BCI’s activities in 2008 and proposed activities in 2009. Tanis gave the bulk of the presentation then Jody then finished with a few final points and a call for funding for 2010 through 2012.

One of the major goals of the BCI is 2009 is the creation of a Detailed Watershed Implementation Plan or DWIP, which, when finished, will lay out the blueprint for what exactly needs to be done in the future to make Bowker Creek a better place. This will replace the Integrated Stormwater Management Plan that already exists. Jody mentioned that the DWIP will allow the BCI, its member municipalities or some group thereof to make funding proposals to senior levels of government to tap both climate change and stimulus funds.The full report is planned to be finished later this year.

Of particular interest to Oak Bay residents in 2009 will be the work done near the Monleith allotment gardens to clear out some of the non-native species and establish a few more allotment plots, which should reduce the huge waitlist. Also, the BCI is following with interest the redevelopment of Oak Bay High, as they would love to do some work on the section of the creek between the field and the running track, however there has been as of yet no communication between the school board and the BCI about that work.

Allan Cassidy grilled Jody for several minutes about whether or not the BCI had delivered on its promise to leverage “3 to 5 times” what the municipality was paying in. He also commented that Oak Bay views Bowker Creek as an “asset” as opposed to Saanich and Victoria’s views of it being a ditch. The funding opportunities were the only things that drew him to the BCI in the first place. Speaking of funding, Oak Bay currently pays in about 11,000 a year towards Tanis’ salary and other incidental costs and this will rise by 3% each year over the next  3 until 2012 when the funding commitment comes up again.

Purchased rubber duck may not be exactly as illustrated. Image from flickr user Gastev

The council ended up approving in principle funding until 2012 but I fear that because of the slow pace that any creek restoration takes and the jurisdictional challenges facing the BCI, come three years from now, some council members will be less than impressed with their work.

Tomorrow afternoon is the Bowker Creek cleanup and annual rubber ducky race. The cleanup starts at 10am behind the Oak Bay High East building parking lot and the rubber ducky race starts at the St. Ann pond just west of St. Ann Street (across St. Ann from the Fire Hall). Hosted by Oak Bay High’s Environment Club, this is the 11th annual, which makes me feel a bit ashamed that this will be my first time going.