Rebecca Sterritt sitting in the BC Hydro field with one year old Hunter and eight-year-old Jefferson. Submitted

Group pushing to preserve Saanich Hydro land as park

Neighbours petitioning to buy surplus land on Kings Road

Adam Kreek hasn’t been in the neighbourhood long but he knows a good thing when he sees one.

Last year Kreek, a former gold medal Olympian rower, and his partner Rebecca Sterritt moved in with their three children to a house directly across from the BC Hydro land between the 1800-block of Kings and Haultain in Saanich.

The couple recently learned something was afoot with the 5.5-acre lot when the Crown corporation ended the lease for the tenants who had been living in the Hydro-owned one-storey, two-bedroom house of the property.

“Once we found out the tenants were leaving we used our personal network to find out that BC Hydro had listed the land as surplus,” said Kreek.

Turns out they were right, though it was so early in the process BC Hydro had yet to confirm it publicly.

“We have determined its surplus to our needs and we recognize that the community views this property as a green space,” said Ted Olynyk, community relations manager for B.C. Hydro. “It’s why we have this process, so when we do divest a property, we offer it first to other Crown agencies, First Nations, and then local government before it’s offered to the local market. It gives the community a chance to show their interest in the property.”

Kreek and Sterritt believe there’s more than enough interest. The couple are part of a neighbourhood imitative to have Saanich or the Capital Regional District buy the lot and preserve it as a park. The “Save Kings Park” Facebook group has a petition with 1,790 signatures.

The triangular piece of land is bound by, and includes, Bowker Creek from Haultain Street to Richmond Road. Among the features are owls in the forested area of the land, two rope swings, one over the creek and one under a tree in the field, and three paths that locals use to save time on their walking and cycling commutes.

“Kids play there constantly, daycare groups spend time there, workers from the hospital picnic there, parents cycle through it with their children, youth play games there… our family hangs out there,” Sterritt said.

Support to buy the land and preserve it as a park comes from people who’ve lived in the area for decades and stretches from Victoria, through the Camosun-Jubilee Saanich panhandle and into Oak Bay, Kreek said.

“It’s not just the people adjacent to the park it’s people in an eight to 10 block radius who are highly supportive.”

While the land is not a park a good portion of it is already well protected. Bowker Creek is subject to Saanich’s streamside development permit area which strictly limits any development on land within 30 metres of a stream. The community has also been working to restore Bowker, which has been day-lighted at other sections including recent work in Oak Bay.

Otherwise, it’s essentially private property that’s been left un-fenced since BC Hydro purchased it in 1958 to put a substation there.

At this point BC Hydro is in discussion with First Nations groups to gauge their interest. Local government, such as Saanich and the CRD would be next in line.

“We will still need a substation somewhere in Greater Victoria at some point to meet the region’s power needs,” Olynyk said.

Kreek believes the community has a good case for Saanich to buy the land, if not the CRD, considering its proximity to Oak Bay and Victoria.

“This area is the neglected stepchild of Saanich, we’re not as beautiful and wild as Cordova Bay but we love our green space and want to keep it,” Kreek said.

The land is not zoned as a park, however, if it was, it would be valued for far less than if it is zoned for residential development.

“We think it’s worth between $1 million and $7 million depending on how it’s zoned, but our argument is this is a park,” Kreek said. “BC Hydro bought it for a good deal a long time ago and but it’s been used as a park, so it should sell as a park, and I believe strongly we should buy it at the value of a park.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

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