The future of Haro Woods will soon be up to Saanich residents.
While councillors this week gave their approval to a land swap with the Capital Regional District, Mayor Frank Leonard says it’ll be up to the public to provide input on how the urban forest is best protected.
“This does not have to be looked after by (Saanich parks staff),” he said. “It could have a much closer relationship with the residents of Cadboro Bay and Gordon Head.”
He offered ideas like a Friends of Haro Woods Society or a Haro Woods stewardship, which could oversee the site according to the neighbourhood’s wishes.
Haro Woods covers three properties currently owned by Saanich, the CRD and the University of Victoria.
As part of the $7.2-million deal, the CRD will receive 1.56 hectares of Saanich’s land to install underground attenuation tanks. They’re purpose is to temporarily store wastewater flows during storms and prevent downstream overflows.
This parcel of land already has sanitary infrastructure on it.
The existing CRD land will become a possession of Saanich.
The CRD board is expected to approve the deal Nov. 9. The public has the opportunity at that time to speak on the land exchange.
Rezoning the different parcels of land – to woodland and utility zoning – requires going before council, during which the public will also be able to provide input.
As well, consultation will occur with area residents on how to best go about protecting and maintaining the land.
If rezoning is approved, and the deal is completed, 96 per cent of Haro Woods will be protected woodland.
“This agreement is as close to a win-win as you can get,” Leonard said.
The deal also includes additional selling of Saanich land (near Hartland landfill) to the CRD, and $1.48 million in cash, which would come from Saanich’s park acquisition fund over eight years.
“All of us knew years ago this was the kind of solution we wanted to come up with,” said Coun. Susan Brice, acknowledging Haro Woods protection has been a goal for council and neighbours for two decades. “There’s always been one vision for Haro Woods, and that is to protect it.”