Fernwood group breathing new life into lost waterway

Fernwood group breathing new life into lost waterway

Group hopes to daylight the creek through excavation

Tim Collins


A Fernwood group is determined to bring new life to a lost waterway.

The concern is centred on Rock Bay Creek, which once flowed out of a shallow pond at Stanley and Vining streets, commonly called Harris’ Pond, and in 1863 became the primary source of Victoria’s water for both for public consumption and fire prevention.

There was a problem, however. The water source was not spring fed, but rather the collection of runoff, and was unsuitable for human consumption. At the time it was described as a “meagre supply of unwholesome liquid” pumped from the “scummy recesses of Harris’ Pond.”

The description may have been a bit pejorative, but it led to the search for another water supply for the city and when water began flowing to Victoria from Elk Lake, Harris’ Pond and Rock Creek disappeared, their flow relegated to underground collection and flow-through culverts.

Now, Rock Bay Creek Revival, a community group in Fernwood, is hoping to reverse the process by first creating public awareness about the waterway and working towards daylighting the creek in celebration of the natural beauty of Victoria’s urban waterways.

Paul van Goozen is one of the organizers of the Rock Bay Creek Revival.

“This is part of our history and our natural environment. We want to raise awareness about the creek and about the neighbourhoods’ relationships with these watersheds,” he said.

“We’ll be placing signage along the path of the creek to demonstrate how this waterway joined five neighbourhoods before emptying into Rock Bay.”

The group has hosted Stream Walks along the creek’s path, pointing out how the streetscapes and vegetation of the area are still reflective the waterway’s path.

Eventually, the group hopes to daylight parts of the creek. The process would involve excavating and removing culverts at selected locations along the creek’s path, bringing it back into the daylight to flow freely through existing parks and passive areas. The creek would return to its underground flow on the opposite side of the green space.

“It would also be great to recreate the falls that existed at Rock Bay and restore some of the natural vegetation in the daylighted portions of the creek,” said van Goozen.

The organization will host a workshop on June 17 at Fernfest (at the corner of Fernwod and Gladstone), where the public is invited to create their own images related to the lost waterway. The artwork will then be turned into public interpretive signage along the underfoot creek at Alexander Park, Blackwood Park and at the site of filled in Harris’ Pond site.

Information on the Rock Bay Creek Revival, the Creek Walks, and other special events can be found at vangoozen.ca/daylighting.