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:
The Bowker Creek Greenway is starting to appear in Browning Park in Saanich. As I mentioned last fall, it is funded by provincial money via LocalMotion and federal stimulus dollars. When I was there yesterday, the asphalt had been poured but the construction fencing was still up. This wasn’t stopping people, as the new, very black asphalt was covered in footprints, of the human and canine variety.
Later that evening I spoke with a Saanich Parks rep (at an event on a new 20 year plan for the Cadboro Bay Gyro Park) about the greenway and he stated the last work left to do was some curb cuts and some concrete. He didn’t give me a timeline but the amount of work is pretty minimal so I don’t expect it to be too long now.
One of the sad parts about this project is that the trail likely won’t see a great deal of us because it is isolated in amongst the very car-centric Shelbourne Corridor area (although the whole corridor is being rethought, as I reported a few months back). The next pieces should be easily to get built, because now they are extensions onto an existing trail, not the creation of a new trail whole cloth.
It has been over a month since I posted, not good. However, I have been busy with the end of the school term and a trip to Hawaii — you can see some of the pictures my brother took here — so to placate all my readers, a picture of Camas with a Garry Oak in Uplands Park.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
I did promise a post on the Bowker Creek Initative’s presentation to council on Monday night but I haven’t yet finished right it. This is because I managed to injure my shoulder somewhere and typing is a little bit painful right now.
Pain or not, I will be at the Bridging the Gap seminar for youth about municipal politics tonight, starting at 6:30pm in the West Theatre of Oak Bay High.