Saanich has added two tiny lots to the vast forest of Mount Douglas, and the purchase could have an outsized influence on keeping the park pristine.
On Friday, the municipality announced it bought two undeveloped single-family properties, about one third of an acre total, for $298,000. Both are indistinguishable from parkland, and are curious relics of history.
Saanich created properties in 1912, but they’ve never been touched. They’re attached to Cordova Bay Road via Westbank Street, a 200 metre long, 20 metre wide strip of property that is more forest and rock bluff than road.
Last spring, survey flags appeared on Westbank Street and the two properties, prompting concern from the Cordova Bay Association and the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society. Both organizations called on Saanich to buy the land.
The Friends of Mount Doug also conducted a “soundscape survey” of Mount Doug this year, and determined the Westbank property abutted one of the quietest areas of the park, mainly due to the cliff, forest and terrain blocking noise from the road.
“It’s fantastic. I’m jumping for joy,” said Darrell Wick, president of the Friends of Mount Doug and who led the soundscape survey. “That is an important acquisition. If you developed (Westbank) road you’d make a sound channel right into the park. We are delighted council saw fit to do this.”
In a press release, Saanich acknowledged the land purchase is significant in preserving the “natural quiet” of the park, as determined by the soundscape survey.
“(Friends of Mount Doug) brought the land to our attention and brought the sound study to our attention. It’s a factor, but I think we would have acquired the land regardless,” said Mayor Frank Leonard. “It’s not a lot of land, but it’s consistent with what we’ve been doing for at least 20 years in terms of land available on the slopes of Mount Doug.”
The purchase of the two lots effectively ends any purpose to the theoretical Westbank Street. That acre of land will also become part of Mount Doug park, Leonard said, although it may technically remain a gazetted road for the near future.
Saanich used $298,000 accrued from income from the telecommunications tower atop Mount Doug to buy the two properties.