Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Access to the Gorge Waterway

Some people have access to the water
Not enough is being done to offer more and better locations for access to the water on the Gorge.   It is not easy to launch a canoe or kayak unless you drive to the locations set up for that.  There are numerous other locations that should be available for access to the Gorge.

1970s apartments on the water
The Gorge should be the focal heart of our neighbourhood but it is effectively more like the Berlin Wall than centre of the community.   There are some good spots where there is access to the Gorge.   Esquimalt Gorge Park and the walkway on the Saanich side are the better locations as is the park and beach at Craigflower park.

Closer to the harbour we have gained access at Selkirk, via the trestle and in the Railyards, but they remain the exceptions.  Of course there is also Banfield park, but there could be so much more.

We have about a dozen streets that end in cul de sacs at the water but we have little or no access to the water at these locations.  I did a quick drive and looked at a few spots today.

Harriet Road
Looking at water from the end
Harriet Road
Harriet as seen from Arm Street
The end of Harriet Road is located right above the Gorge and the crazy part is that the land between the end of the road and the waterway is already public property and could be a park.   There is a little of a space at the end of the street and a single bench, but there is no access to the water.   It is moderately steep but not unreasonably so and not for a long distance.

Some of the blackberries
at Harriet Road
There is no sign telling you the spot is there and it is heavily overgrown with blackberries.  We have lost a lot of public space to these plants and we need to start seeing some local government take action and pull them out.

It would not take much to make a path down to the water on which you could carry a canoe or kayak to the water.  I would also offer another location you could swim in the Gorge.

Arm Street Park
This is the empty field on the cul de sac
Path to the water
Arm Street is directly across the water from Harriet Road and it is a decent sized park.

There is an empty lawn/field at the end of the cul de sac.   All the site does at the moment is require mowing by the City.

Arm Street Wharf
A nice path leads you down a look out and they down to a decent sized concrete wharf.  There is no sign telling what is down there or that the park is there at all.  Once one is down at the water, there is no way to access it from wharf area as there is a fence around.   You could even have this as a stop for the Habour Ferries.

The park even has a path you could wheel a canoe down on.

Decosta Place and Burlieth Crescent
End of Decosta - this is a park
Burlieth Crescent Park
In theory these two locations have park to access the water, but there is no sign to indicate it is public access to the water and there seems to be little or no attempt to make them places where people would want to try and access the water.

If there the local governments are going to the trouble of making these parks, put a few dollars into them and make them useful.  Both of them could be made to have decent water access for the public

Gorge Park
Aaron Point in Gorge Park
  This is a decent sized park near Tillicum and Gorge but from the street you can not see anything of the park.   There is some decent access to the water and there is this nice dock close to the reversing waterfall.   This is a stop for the Harbour Ferry and makes for a great place to swim, but it is underused.   The access to the water in most of the park is limited and the brush in the park makes the seeing the water hard to do.

Few people know that Aaron point is part of the park.

In the past this was a major gathering point for people in the whole region and was the main swimming location

Washington Street
There is a nice little park at the end of Washington, but it has not access to the water even though it borders the Gorge for 140 metres.   This park should be connected to the Galloping Goose and would only need a 150 metre trail to do that.

End of Washington Street, Selkirk is across the water
 At the very end of Washington there is a perfect location to access the water easily and launch a boat.   You make some parking available in the park and you offer a nice ramp into the water and then we have more access.

Nearby there is the Gorge Road hospital, there is no attempt by the hospital to make access to the water available to the public.  There is 175 metres of waterfront at the hospital

100 years ago the Gorge Waterway as the heart of the city, it should be so again in the future


M Davis said...

Great article - well done with the ground-truthing to locate these spots.

I've just become more aware of Gorge history via the excellent book "The Gorge of Summers Gone". It would be nice to see it continue to re-emerge as a well-used and loved community resource.

Julian said...

It is great for the public to have access to the water along the Gorge, but I think it's important to remember that humans are not the only users of the waterway (which, along with Portage Inlet is a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary).

I think it's important to realise that other species need the waterway for their very survival and that perhaps we should leave them some areas where they can be relatively undisturbed.

After all...we've hardened kilometres of shoreline so that we can have unfettered access...

If we want to continue to enjoy nature on the waterway, we have to think about more than just ourselves.

kate said...

I agree that there should be more access to the Gorge. However, I would like to point out a few observations.
1. You say that the Gorge today is more like the Berlin Wall. I couldn't disagree more. As someone who has observed the Gorge Waterway daily for the last 25 years either from my row boat, back yard or house I have to tell you that it is today an extremely well used recreational feature. The pictures that you took of the Gorge were quite misleading in their absense of boat traffic. Over the last 25 years I have watched the traffic on the Gorge grow by leaps and bounds until now in some narrow areas in the summer it is not uncommon to have boat traffic jams. So, although there is always a desire to have more access to boat launches on the Gorge, many many people are apparently not having a problem getting their boats (kayaks, racing sculls, dragon boats, kodiaks, outriggers, harbour ferries, and motor boats)into the water. In the distant past there might have been more large celebrations on the Gorge, but I wouldn't be surprised if the total number of boats on the Gorge now equals or surpasses the total number of recreational boats that used the Gorge in the early years.
2.Your photo of a row of private docks with the caption "Some people have access to the water" lacks insight. If you look at the photo again you should notice that it is actually a photo of the last natural Garry Oak meadow on the water in Victoria. Many of these private residents have preserved this natural and unique feature of the Gorge. In the spring the area under the trees is a carpet of shooting stars, lilies and camus
and some residents along this stretch have spent years diligently expanding the area where these wild flowers grow. If you look at the waterfront where municipalities have provided access to the public, you will often find that they have distroyed the natural shoreline in order to provide that access. So issues around public access to the Gorge are not as simple as you indicate. The natural environment,both flora and fauna,need to be considered.
3. I encourage you to try to expand public access to the Gorge - a number of people and groups have tried to do this in the past with varied results. The access at Burleith was the result of local residents many years ago challenging City council's attempt to sell the property to a private buyer. The access at the Selkirk property was a result of the Community Association working in cooperation with Mr Jawl. There was an attempt by the community to have the Harriet road end designated as park with a trail to the water but all we got was a bench. Better access to Arbutus Park on Washington has been looked at extensively over the years but all options are costly (a trail along the bank is not a simple undertaking) and the mud flat/salt water march area is environmentally sensitive.
So good luck with your efforts to expand public access to the Gorge but keep in mind that public access to water has many factors that need to be considered.

Unknown said...

I am looking to purchase a house just off Selkirk avenue and I really look forward to walking my Kayak down to the water. Is their truly no where to launch or can the Arm or Burleith Accesses be used? I looked at Arm and wondered why they fenced it in such a way. Certainly a little walk-down ramp would do the trick for people who themselves do not own waterfront. How can I help in the cause to encourage the city to make slight modifications?

Bernard said...

The access is not great which is why I highlighted this.

Arm Street could be a good access and there is even enough space to park a number of vehicles at the top, but it has not been developed to allow for easy access

skarpes said...

I read your post with interest. I think you should get to know some of the people in the Gorge Tillicum Community Assoc, you have many common interests. Gorge Park is presently undergoing some changes with much community interest and action being poured into the park. Water access definitely could be better (for small boats particularly.) The wharf/dock at 'Tillicum Landing' is useful but access to and from (down the stairs or steep hill is problematic for canoes etc. I think use of (and public interest in) this and other parks are key to many things, public health, community building amoung them. But also, (in my opinion) as a benefit to wildlife. As people show interest in their urban parks, they come out and get involved in park and shoreline cleanups and learn about invasive plant removal etc. The alternative is to leave the parks alone to become overgrown and used only by vagrants and trouble makers. Not an option in my opinion!

Bernard said...

I would like to get more involved with both community associations in my neighbourhood, but I am sort of out of time in my life at this point to actually get involved.

I am a leader with a Scout group and the youth are looking at a environmental project to take on. The youth are leaning towards taking on the responsibility for a small park in the region.

islander said...

well said! how can we get more water access points on the gorge?!?!?