A priority plan for King’s Pond is slowly falling into place, pleasing both Saanich and residents concerned about recent development plans near the oasis.
Saanich last week came to an agreement with Cheenaht Holdings to purchase land around the pond, with an eye on protecting the natural area.
“The pond continues through three parcels (of land),” explained Mayor Frank Leonard. “We have owned the middle parcel. What we acquired was the northernmost parcel. We still wish to acquire the southernmost parcel.”
Negotiations settled last Friday between the two parties, with Saanich buying 60 per cent of the property at 3745 Ascot Dr. for $690,000. Money came out of Saanich’s sub-regional parks and land sales reserve funds.
“There was a development application (from Cheenaht) and our staff worked to achieve our goals,” Leonard said. Under that original proposal, the municipality would have acquired only about 11 per cent of the land, leaving a portion of the floodplain and the streamside area in private hands.
“That was not going to meet the (preservation) objectives of our parks priority plan,” Leonard said. “We went, ‘Let’s look at using taxpayers’ money.’ We think it’s good value for the taxpayer.”
Area resident Andy Ruszel, who has been vocal about protecting King’s Pond, agrees it was a good investment.
“Obviously you can’t say no development,” Ruszel said. “You have to respect the fact there’s little room for urban expansion, so all in all it came out very well. In the end it’s Cedar Hill Park that benefits. We protected a very precious piece of wetland and duck habitat.”
While the muddy shores of this newly acquired segment of pond won’t ever be part of an urban trail, and will likely stay secluded from the general public, the mayor says it’s good to have it in public hands.
“What we’ve done is really an environmental accomplishment,” Leonard said. “We’ve simply secured a wetland for the environment.”
To complete the plan as outlined, Saanich sees one more land acquisition in the future, at Queensbury Avenue and Ascot Drive.
“We always look for a willing seller. We’re a very patient government; to be impatient costs you more money,” Leonard said. “We would like that third parcel, we’ll achieve it at some point.”
Cheenaht Holdings has revised its subdivision proposal for 3745 Ascot Dr. from five residential properties to three properties fronting Ascot Drive.
“We very much appreciate the acquisition of this beautiful piece of parkland which will be a substantial step towards protecting the ecosystem of this very special urban pond and wildlife habitat that is enjoyed by so many in our community,” Ruszel said.