Victoria councillor Jeremy Loveday.

Group hopes to jazz up local waterways

Support is growing over a waterway loop that would connect five of the region's municipalities.

Support is growing over a waterway loop that would connect five of the region’s municipalities and create more safety and awareness for paddlers on the water.

The Victoria Waterways Loop would be a 15-kilometre circular paddling route, with 15 rest stops or launch points scattered along the shoreline of five municipalities, including Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich, View Royal and Colwood.

The loop, which is being spearheaded by the Victoria Waterways Loop group, already exists with dozens of recreational kayakers, kayaking groups and tours who use the waterway. There are a number of stops such as the Songhees Point near the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort and Banfield Park in Vic West, as well as the beach near Craigflower Schoolhouse in Saanich, which allows paddlers to come in and out of the water safely.

However, the aim is to improve existing paddling routes with signage to ensure it is safe and accessible for all age groups and skill levels. The group also hopes to create a brochure to distribute among local recreation centres and other areas to inform residents about safe places to paddle, specifically related to the Inner and Esquimalt harbours.

“There’s also the environmental stewardship aspect. We don’t want people to go up rivers in sensitive ecosystems and the estuaries, and the whole loop allows people to see the path and stay on the path,” said John Rogers, a volunteer with the group. They hope municipalities will consider retro-fitting public docks and when new docks are being built, ensure it’s accessible for multi-use paddle craft.

It’s an idea the City of Victoria is on board with. Council voted unanimously in favour of committing to create signage for the city’s portion of the loop next year and to consider funding for potential infrastructure upgrades and additional signage as part of the 2018 budget process during a meeting last week.

“I think it’s becoming more accessible and affordable for people to get out on the water. This is something we need to continue to focus on — how do we bring life to the gem that is our harbour and our waterways,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday, who brought the motion forward.

“It’s the key part of what makes our city so special and we need to invest in that and make sure our world class waterways are getting the attention and care they deserve.”

Several councillors also echoed the importance of using the waterways to teach residents and tourists about the First Nations history in the region, especially in conjunction with the Year of Reconciliation.

Tourism Victoria has also thrown its support behind the project. In a letter, president and CEO Paul Nursey said the loop creates more opportunities for people to check out retailers, restaurants and cafes along the loop, and adds another reason for visitors to extend their stay at accommodation properties.

Rogers hopes to have new signage along the loop by next year.

For more information visit vicwaterloop.ca.