Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Grand Park for Victoria

The Victoria suffers from not having a central grand park such as Stanley Park in Vancouver, Gasworks Park in Seattle, Toronto Island, Prince's Island in Calgary or Hyde Park in London.

We have Beacon Hill park that no longer acts as the sort of grand urban park that the city needs. Beacon Hill has had its ability to host community events and be a gathering place killed off over the last 20 years - far enough now that it has become logistically impossible to have it be the cornerstone of the community.

One could recover Beacon Hill park to what is should be for the community, but if I were to start from scratch, it is not a location I would choose for this city at this time.

What I see the park needing to have are the following:
  • Green space
  • Space for crowds of 50 to 30 000 to be able to gather for an event
  • Real day to day use of the space
  • A rec with full facilities on site
  • Decent transit and parking
  • A reasonable distance for most people in greater Victoria

We have some decent parks are the perimeter of the city - Mount Doug, Thetis Lake, and Elk Lake - but they are being focused on as urban wilderness spaces and not as a public gathering places for the community. I can not see there being willingness of the public to accept 30 to 50 acres of Mount Doug being made into much heavier use, even though this is less than 10% of the park.

Places I think this grand urban park could go are the following locations:

Cuthbert Holmes Park - this is the park next to Tillicum mall. The site is about 60 acres in size and could be rebuilt to be the park for the region. The Tillicum mall offers the parking and transit needs. The Pearkes Rec Centre offers the building facilities needed. The setting could be made into a beautiful urban manicured park with some very decent ampitheatre like setting possible in the northeast corner.

Kinsman Gorge and the Gorge Park in Saanich offers a potential site of about 40 acres to work with. If one were to build a lower level pedesitrian bridge and a decent set of underpasses at the Tillicum bridge, one could unify the two sides of the Gorge and make one park that could offer the setting the community needs. This site has the advantage that it is already reasonably heavily managed and not a 'wild' park. What is missing are any sort of community buildings or facilities. This location already hosts some community events of some reasonable scale.

Another location would the the Cedar Hill Golf Course. I personally think that it is unreasonable for Saanich to devote close to 130 acres of park land to golf. Golf is wildly land intensive for a relatively small number of users. Cedar Hill Park has the space and setting to become our Central Park, it is the only existing park that is comparable to Beacon Hill Park in size and is not 'wild' in nature. It could host huge community events. It could offer the space for numerous groups to hold their events and not interfere with each other. The only problem is that the location is not on many main routes and has very little transit accessing it. The golfers would also object and raise merry hell.

The Blenkinsop valley could host a park, but I am certain the nimby reaction would swift and loud.

Layritz Park is about 60 acres in size so therefore has the space, and the proximity to Camosun and the Van Isle Tech Park means there is existing parking available that is underused on weekends and holidays. The biggest problem with this location is that it is too far off the beaten path.

This central regional community park is crucial for our region to build a stronger social capital. The time has come for this debate and I hope that I can get it rolling.
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