Oak Bay is renowned for its trails, pathways and back alleys which all enhance the city’s esthetic charm.
Not only do the locals enjoy using the paths to cut across sections of the city but it’s no secret the quiet streets and panoramic views also draw out many of the region’s long-distance runners and cyclists (many who come to Oak Bay to link up with local riders).
This is former Ironman athlete Julie van Veelen laughing as she tries to use a 10-foot-wide pathway (easement) in the Uplands that's respected by the landowners along Beach. We found many of these easements appropriated by owners & blocked w fences/hedges, and do not go through pic.twitter.com/5eYsH222N6
— travisApaterson (@TravisAPaterson) May 1, 2019
So it was a surprise last week when a weekly Tripleshot cycling group mapped out what they thought was a fun ride that would zig through Oak Bay and explore many of its alleys and paths only to discover many of them were blocked. Several members went on the ride.
“As soon as I saw them talking about it I was like, yeah, I’ve had this happen a lot in Oak Bay,” said former Ironman triathlete Julie van Veelen, who was fourth at 2013 Ironman Canada and spent hundreds of her training hours in Oak Bay.
A prime example is a 10-foot-wide pathway that starts at 3220 and 3230 on Beach Drive (behind a BC Hydro box) and, on the map, connects a pathway that crosses Exeter all the way to Ripon. However, it does not connect through as it’s blocked by a five-metre-tall set of hedges between Beach and Exeter, although a set of power lines do run along the easement between Beach and Exeter.
“Sometimes I’ll find an entrance to a path on one side and I go through partway and it’s blocked by fencing or hedges,” van Veelen said. “Other times residents use the alley to park in or to keep compost bins. Or it’s just overgrown with [unkept] trees.”
The oddity started with the Tripleshot group using the CRD map to create the ride, as it recognizes longtime easements and rights-of-ways that aren’t actually accessible or maintained. Some are BC Hydro lines, but others are municipal easements and rights-of-way designated for a variety of reasons, said Oak Bay Engineering and Building Departments in a response to van Veelen.
“In the Uplands, some Easements and Rights of Way for sewer and storm mains or hydro etc. are in place but are not presently being used, except in some cases by BC Hydro,” said the statement. “Nevertheless, these easements and rights of way are available to [Oak Bay] if they are needed in the future.”
Engineering noted that at least one of the rights-of-way is being considered for installation of a storm drainage system in the Uplands area.
Oak Bay Engineering also noted that some of the easements and rights-of-way in the Uplands have never been developed for pedestrian trails, which has permitted vegetation to established itself in these areas over time. And because they weren’t improved in the first place the municipality has never maintained these areas.