A Greater Victoria club practising an ancient sport loses its outdoor space to a new handyDART facility this fall.
On Sept. 1 the Victoria Bowmen Archery Club says goodbye to the outdoor range it’s called home for a decade. Instead the View Royal property, which is owned by the provincial government, will be developed for handyDART buses and services.
“It’s a tragedy,” said club president Al Wills. “We’ve been shooting outdoors in the western community since 1965.”
The future of the land at 2401 Burnside Rd. has been hotly debated in the community – with View Royal council rejecting two development proposals after hearing resident concerns over noise, parking, air quality and environmental impacts.
Ultimately, it was the provincial government’s decision.
“The demand for service is growing, especially in the western communities, and a new facility is needed to improve service for those who rely on it,” said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. “Greater Victoria has limited space for new or expanded commercial and industrial development.”
The Ministry said BC Transit recommended the View Royal property for its central location and proximity to main roadways connecting Greater Victoria, including western communities.
In September, the club was given a tentative deadline of June 2020 to vacate the property.
Founded as the Maquinna Archery Club in 1949, the group has played host to various Canadian and Pacific championships through the years and has won a number, including the 1997 World Archery Championships. In 2010, the club funneled roughly $50,000 into building its facility at the Burnside location, installing fencing and safety infrastructure.
Wills said he’s travelled the world for archery and has never found a location for outdoor shooting as ideal as the club’s current home.
The club uses Saanich Commonwealth Place during the winter, but Wills said outdoor shooting – with factors such as wind and weather – is the Olympic discipline.
“It’s always been done outside. The sport is hundreds of years old and that’s the way it was,” Wills said. “You shot outdoors for hunting, for protection.”
Archery has a special draw for athletes who prefer to go solo, Wills added. This year, despite public knowledge that the club would be out of a facility come Sept. 1, there was an uptick in enrolment. About 150 people shoot with the club and alumni include five Olympians.
Wills is negotiating with Saanich Commonwealth to see if members can use the indoor space during the summer months too. Ideally, the perfect outdoor space would become available.
“We’ve looked literally everywhere. I have talked to every municipality and every parks department. …We’re still looking.”
– With files from Shalu Mehta.