Beacon Hill Park History

By Janis Ringuette

Copyright 2004. Limited excerpts are permitted but please credit the author.

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Chapter Eighteen: 2000-2002


Great Blue Heron Colony

Great Blue Heron

In 2000, one hundred and thirty Great Blue Herons occupied sixty-five active nests in one small area of Beacon Hill Park. This large urban heron colony--accessible a few feet from busy Douglas Street opposite Avalon Street--is now well known as one of the most interesting features of the Park.

Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) are the largest and heaviest North American herons. Herons stand about four feet tall and weigh 5.3 pounds (2.4 kg.). Their wingspan is an incredible six feet (182.8 cm.). Adults are identified by their long body plumes, white crowns bordered with black, and black shoulder patches, as shown in the photo above.

From 2000 to 2004, the City of Victoria increasingly valued the colony and promoted it as an attraction. Heron photos appeared in City publications, a heron webpage and “heron-cam” were added to the City’s website. The parking area immediately below the nest trees was closed from February through August, when the herons were present, to reduce disturbance. Heron information signs were posted and numbered tags were nailed to nest trees.

Bald Eagle nest

Bald Eagles nested successfully again in the tall cottonwood on the west edge of Beacon Hill Park in 2000. Two young fledged.

There had been four consecutive years of successful nesting at the Douglas Street site, according to the records of birder Roy Prior. One Eagle young fledged in 1997, one in 1998 and two in 1999. There was no nest in the Park in 2001, but in 2002, the Eagles switched to an alternate nest site next to the old Aviary near Goodacre Lake; two young were reared successfully. The pair did not nest in either 2003 or 2004. Though it is common for eagles to take a year off, it is possible this pair is getting too old to nest. (See 2001 for a description of Eagles preying on the Heron colony; see 2002 for an account of the nest on Goodacre lake)

Fierce debate continued on appeal of court ruling

On December 21, 1999, Wendy Zink, City of Victoria Community Development Manager, sent a letter to twenty-eight community groups informing them that commercial sponsor signs would no longer be allowed in Beacon Hill Park. The change was necessary in order to comply with the 1998 B.C. Supreme Court decision of Justice R. D. Wilson. Zink’s letter to the community groups stated: “Sponsor identification such as signs, banners and product displays will not be permitted in the park under this ruling.” (Times Colonist, January 5, 2000, p. A 1)

Zink’s action was guaranteed to alarm charity event organizers and leaders of other non-profit groups and galvanize them into action. Community leaders maintained that displaying corporate signs and selling products in the Park were essential to the success of their events.

B. C. Supreme Court Justice R. D. Wilson’s October 8, 1998 landmark decision detailed legal restrictions on the use of Beacon Hill Park. He upheld the Park Trust and affirmed and extended Supreme Court Chief Justice Sir Matthew B. Begbie's decision of 1884. Wilson specifically prohibited paid-entrance admissions, any fences excluding the public from Park areas, and any type or size of commercial advertising banners and signs. [See Chapter 17, 1998, for a full discussion. The complete text of Justice Wilson’s decision is available on the internet.]

City Council was scheduled to take a final vote at the January 13 meeting on whether or not to appeal Justice Wilson’s ruling. The appeal, scheduled to take place in February, was a key issue in the November, 1999 municipal election. Five councillors of the old Council plus Mayor Bob Cross were for the appeal. The new Council seemed poised to vote against appeal. [See Chapter 17, 1999, for more background.]

In response to Zink’s letter, a users coalition was quickly formed to prepare a presentation to City Council. The coalition supported the minority on Council who disagreed with the ruling and wanted to appeal. Though the Wilson decision spelled out exactly what was prohibited--including sales and any advertising signs or banners--those councillors called the decision “unclear.”

Newly elected Coun. Rob Fleming was angry that Zink sent the letter to community groups and said the letter was politically motivated: “The opinions sent out in the letter were those of the minority of council and somehow the minority view of council has been encapsulated in the letter written by managers.” He said it was “absolute nonsense” that non-profit groups were threatened with a loss of sponsorship signs and banners. His interpretation of the ruling was that past practices could continue as usual in the Park.

Coun. Denise Savoie, liaison for Parks and Recreation, was also displeased the letter was sent without consultation. She said: “I am not only astonished but quite annoyed. I think just basic courtesy would have suggested some discussion at Council and a Council decision on that.” Both Fleming and Savoie were among the majority of Council members who voted in December to cancel an appeal.

Coun. David McLean wanted to appeal the ruling. He defended the letter’s content but agreed Council should have seen it first. Coun. Helen Hughes spoke for an appeal. (Times Colonist, January 7, 2000 B 1)

The following week, newly elected Mayor Alan Lowe said it was unfortunate the December letter from City staff was sent because it did not reflect Council policy. (Times Colonist, January 13, 2000, B 5)

Two prominent organizations worried about the sponsorship ban were the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Run for the Cure and the Great Canadian Family Picnic. Both depended heavily on corporate sponsorship and rewarded corporations by displaying multiple advertising banners and signs. The Picnic attracted 20,000 people in 1999; the Run for the Cure, 7,000. Gordon Gunn, an organizer for both events, said it took $60,000 to stage the annual Canada Day picnic and $47,000 came from businesses. Sponsor banners were displayed at the Run for the Cure and sponsor names printed on t-shirts worn by participants. “All of that is of a commercial nature,” Gunn said. He thought the only realistic solution was to terminate the Trust agreement with the province which governed use of the Park:

There is just so much uncertainty now, I don’t know how we would ever plan our event. I would have difficulty envisioning it without corporate sponsors...I think the city has to revisit its entire park policies to determine what is appropriate...I find that they (the City) have taken a very narrow view of the case at this point. (Times Colonist, January 5, 2000, p. A 1, A 2)

Another event traditionally displaying corporate signs in the Park was the May long-weekend Island Farms Parade. Visiting high school marching bands played in the Cameron Bandshell under an Island Farms Dairy corporate banner. “Sponsors want to get credit for things,” said Ron Butlin of the Greater Victoria Festival Society. (Times Colonist, January 5, 2000, p. A 1, A 2)

The Times Colonist, a sponsor of the cancer run, the picnic and the annual Garden City 10 K Run, was squarely on the side of events organizers. The newspaper ran three editorials promoting commercialism in the Park. The most inflammatory editorial, on January 6, claimed the Park Trust wording was being “used to slow the fight against breast cancer.” The editorial chided Council for jeopardizing “fund-raisers that improve our quality of life...[and sucking] the vital juices out of every bit of life in Victoria to save the camas lilies...[and to turn Beacon Hill Park] into a refuge for misanthropes...”

The editorial did not claim Supreme Court Justice Wilson’s decision was “unclear,” as did some Councillors. Instead, it pointed out the decision “could hardly have been clearer” and that Wilson had no choice but to uphold the Trust wording and the Begbie decision. The editorial quoted Wilson’s statement that if the City didn’t like the legal restrictions, it should move to terminate the Trust. With clear title to the land, Wilson wrote, “The property then may be administered free of the encumbrances imposed...” The paper called City Council “chicken” and asked them to “get it right” on January 13: “Council must either reinstate the appeal, or move to end the trust and have Beacon Hill turned into a municipal park that reflects the vitality of the people who use it.” (Times Colonist, January 6, 2000, A 16)

Helen Oldershaw, Chairperson of the Beacon Hill Rescue Coalition, the community group whose positions were completely endorsed by Wilson’s decision, called the January 6 editorial “little short of malicious.” In a letter to the newspaper, she said the implication of the editorial was that Coalition “misanthropes” protecting the Park from giant music festivals were more concerned about camas lilies than cancer research. She called that “cruel and unworthy.” Oldershaw pointed out:

[The Coalition] did not create this impasse. It was the previous city council who sought to break a trust more than a century old; it was the previous city council who sought the endorsement of the court; it was they who lost the case; and it was they who arrogantly launched an appeal--all with taxpayers money.

She said the newspaper owned an apology “to those who care for, and have fought for, Beacon Hill Park.” (Times Colonist, January 12, 2000, A 15) Coalition members supporting the Park Trust were often portrayed as “old ladies” who didn’t care about breast cancer victims or spoil-sports who wanted to stop children from petting cute goats and having fun at picnics.

On January 13, the Times Colonist editorial told Council: “All it needs is the courage to go ahead with the appeal.” On January 23, another editorial advocated getting rid of the Trust entirely: “We should be able to say away with it and all its silly restrictions. We, through our elected councillors, should decide what activities are appropriate in a park in the middle of a city at the beginning of the 21st century.” (Times Colonist, Islander, January 16, 2000, p. 16 and January 23, 2000, p. 13)

Debate intensified as the Council meeting date approached. Reporter Carla Wilson interviewed several Park visitors and printed their responses in her column. Jim Salt told her:

I’m not sure a place like Beacon Hill Park is appropriate for advertising or for a huge crowd. I don’t think it is. I think there is a limit to the number of people you can put in any space. I think eventually we have got to stop thinking ‘enlarge.’

Bob Jones questioned holding huge events in the Park: “My feeling is if you want to have an enormous festival or giant picnic, have it in a giant parking lot.” Dan Penman said event sponsors could put signs just outside park boundaries. Leina Pauls thought signs should be allowed: “It’s a public park. These are good causes.” (Times Colonist, January 7, 2000 B 1)

Sue Williams, of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, said her organization must have banners for its six key sponsors and the Park was the preferred location. She noted participation increased when the event was moved to the Park in 1998. Other Park events with high turnouts included the annual Times Colonist 10K Garden City Run, with 6,000 in 1999. Even the smaller Mother-Daughter Walk held in September attracted 600 people.

Helen Oldershaw, Chairperson of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, pointed out Beacon Hill was the preferred site in the City for most large events and the number of organized events increased every year. In addition, the crowds at every large event were growing. Organizations and the public needed to consider if the Park was being harmed. She urged the city not to appeal Wilson’s decision and said she supported the city’s plan to develop a new master plan for the Park. (Times Colonist, January 7, 2000 B 1)

Columnist and radio personality Joe Easingwood charged into the fray citing nonexistent history and brushing aside complexities such as legal documents. He charged:

...a court is being allowed to decide an issue that is clearly the domain of the duly-elected Victoria City Council...Limited corporate sponsorship and ticket selling are facts of life for most community groups. Moneys earned help everything from cancer research to affordable, healthy community events. Mayor Alan Lowe and council, take charge of Beacon Hill Park! (Times Colonist, Islander, January 9, 2000, p. 13)

In a letter appearing in the Times Colonist the day before the Council vote, Jean Crease noted events which start out small in scale often balloon to mega-events. She declared:

Beacon Hill Park should be free from commercial activity; it should be as simple as that...I think I am with thousands of Victorians in feeling very strongly that we should honour the Trust and that the tranquility and inviolability of Beacon Hill Park be kept in perpetuity.(Times Colonist, January 12, 2000, A 15)

Also appearing that day was a letter on the other side. Lynda Koenders, manager of the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, wrote in support of the appeal. She thought events going on for years in the Park, such as the petting farm, could be illegal according to the Wilson decision. She said: “City Council should go to the province to either change the trust for Beacon Hill Park, or to give the city what it needs to have control of what happens in the park.” (Times Colonist, January 12, 2000, A 15)

A January 11 letter to Council from top City staff presented a chronological summary of the Park use issue and an explanation for the controversial December 21 letter written by Wendy Zink, Manager Community Development Division. Signing the joint letter, and thus closing ranks in support of Zink, were Yvan Caron, Manager Parks Division, Donna Atkinson, Director Community Services and Patrick O’Reilly, Director Engineering, Parks and Public Works. They recommended Community Development, Parks and legal counsel be directed by Council to prepare a report on options for the management and operation of Beacon Hill Park. (January 11, 2000 letter, stamped “#11 Late Item Committee/Whole January 13, 2000")

Mayor Alan Lowe said the City planned to continue allowing non-profit events and their sponsorship signs in the Park. He thought the aim of an appeal--which he voted against in December--was to clarify the situation of non-profit groups. He said Council and citizens had similar views:

They both want to ensure we can continue the status quo in the park, support charity, non-profit events and are against commercializing the park with short-term festivals with paid attendance. I think there is a nice balance right now. (Times Colonist, January 13, 2000, B 5)

The “nice balance” referred to by Lowe included Park uses prohibited by Supreme Court Justice Wilson. Continuing the “status quo” was apparently the agreed position of Council members, whether or not they were for or against the appeal. However, that interpretation--that the “status quo” was acceptable, advertising and all--did not comply with the 1998 legal ruling. The Wendy Zink letter was a correct interpretation of the Wilson decision; complying with the court decision did prohibit many current uses. Council did not intend to follow the letter of the law. They maintained the position that traditional uses were exempt.

A capacity crowd attended the City Council meeting January 13. Twenty-one speakers, for and against the appeal, were heard. Groups making presentations included Sierra Club, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundations, Friends of Beacon Hill Park, Beacon Hill Rescue Coalition, Great Canadian Family Picnic, and the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. Independent Betty Gibbens, a staunch defender of the Park Trust for twenty years, spoke for appealing the ruling “so that respondents may be heard.” Others against commercialism in the Park supported cancellation of the appeal. Five organizations representing large non-profit events called on the City to appeal the decision or clarify park policies and consider eliminating the trust.

Written information provided to Council included a written summary of the City solicitor’s strong recommendation to appeal. Mr. Guy McDannold, of Staples McDannold Stewart, stated the Justice Wilson decision was a “much narrower definition of the park and the use to which the park can be put than was contemplated by the terms of the trust and the subsequent decision by Chief Justice Begbie."

McDannold reminded Council that Wilson declared the Park was legally a “nature park, an ornamental pleasure ground and playing fields” and all other activities--for profit or utility--were excluded. At the time of his decision, Justice Wilson was aware of events staged in the Park which included advertising and sales and aware the petting zoo was operated as a private business; Wilson decided those uses were “unlawful and not allowed.” McDannold said the February 7-8 court date was already set, the City’s case prepared, and proceeding with the case would involve no other costs. He concluded: "An appeal to the Court of Appeal of British Columbia is necessary to clarify the decision of Justice R. D. Wilson to alleviate potential liability to the City and the special event organizers which currently use Beacon Hill Park."

Mayor Alan Lowe suggested Council ask another lawyer’s opinion: “I want another opinion to see whether the ruling by Justice Wilson will be detrimental to the existing events in the Park,” Council agreed in a 6-3 vote. A final decision was delayed until January 24. (Times Colonist, January 14, 2000, A 3)

After the meeting, Mayor Alan Lowe said changing his vote against the appeal depended on the advice of a second lawyer. Lowe, along with a majority of councillors, had promised during the municipal campaign in November, 1999 to vote against the appeal. If the City ignored legal advice to appeal, Lowe thought the City could be liable for expenses if a planned event was challenged by an injunction.

University of Victoria law professor Sandra McCallum said she did not believe Wilson’s judgment meant current uses of the Park were inappropriate. She thought Council was right to drop the appeal. McCallum agreed with Coun. Lunt and Fleming who doubted an individual would be granted an injunction to stop an event. “People may seek an injunction, but they won’t necessarily get it,” she said. Betty Gibbens said she would consider filing an injunction. (Times Colonist, January 15, 2000, B 2)

In a letter published by Monday Magazine, Coralee Bell called on the City to fulfill its duty as Park trustee:

It is not... the city’s responsibility to find clever ways to help non-profit groups violate the park’s trust. Rather, the city is obligated to uphold and protect the trust by instructing these groups to terminate their activities. City Council may feel uncomfortable in performing this duty, but, by ignoring it, they are currently breaching their role as trustees. (Monday Magazine, January 20-26, 2000)

The second attorney consulted by Council advised the City to appeal Wilson’s ruling. Vancouver lawyer Raymond Young said the B. C. Supreme Court ruling put all commercially sponsored events in the Park at high risk. At lower risk were events not associated with a commercial for-profit sponsor. Young said the petting zoo was a moderate risk and the Maintenance Yard was a definite misuse. (Times Colonist, January 21, 2000, C 2)

Columnist Les Leyne offered this pro-commercial opinion:

The new City Council should simply break out of the trust that governs the park...rescind their trusteeship. Ask the province to tear it up and then replace it, minutes later, with a modern charter that lays out the understood permissible uses in the year 2000.

Council needs to drag the legal foundation for that lovely piece of real estate into the 21st century and do it quickly, before this whole argument breaks down into injunctions and court battles every time somebody tries to organize anything in the park that remotely involves commercial overtones.

There are any number of people suffering from the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be enjoying themselves in the park outside the terms of the trust. Thousands of us do, and we need to be clear that commercial sponsorships of all the events are welcomed and encouraged. (Times Colonist, January 22, 2000, A 17)

On January 24, 2000, speaker presentations were heard for an hour before the vote. Cornelia Lange said businesses wanted to use the Park because fees were low. Hennie Stibbe said, “This issue has torn the community apart. [The Park] belongs to us and we are on the verge of losing it, absolutely losing it.”

Victoria City Council voted by a 7 to 2 margin to withdraw the appeal of Justice Wilson’s 1998 ruling. Coun. Denise Savoie, who made the motion to cancel the appeal, encouraged everyone to work toward a park plan as a community, not through the courts. Coun. David McLean spoke against the motion but then abstained, so his vote counted in favour. Coun. Helen Hughes and Coun. Bea Holland voted against. (Times Colonist, January 25, 2000, p. A 2)

Bob LeQuesne, volunteer chairman for the largest annual event taking place in the Park, the Great Canadian Family Picnic, was disappointed the appeal was dropped. He said a coalition of non-profit park user groups would meet to discuss the situation.

What we’re going to strive for now is to have the city hopefully indemnify (or insure) those groups that get issued special events permits for the Park, in case injunction problems do arise.

Our fear is that being the most popular and biggest event, if somebody was going to throw an injunction out, it would be at us...We’re all in the same boat and we’re all very nervous. We at the picnic want the city to move immediately on what policies they’re going to hand down. We’re way behind in terms of planning our event. (Times Colonist, January 26, 2000, C 1, C 2)

Mayor Lowe said the city would be supportive of groups facing injunction action. “What we can do is tell them we are comfortable with trying to stage the status quo events that have been going on at the park.” Coun. David McLean said the city should include financial help “if an injunction comes by and they’re out of pocket, they have to move venue or they have to cancel the event altogether.” (Times Colonist, January 26, 2000, C 1, C 2)

A letter to the Times Colonist reminded Victorians that the City did not own Beacon Hill Park. Instead the City is the trustee, entrusted with operating the Park within a set of restrictions. The City asked the court for direction on what was appropriate use and Justice Wilson answered that “the asset cannot lawfully be used” for a paid-entrance music festival. (Times Colonist, January 27, 2000, A 11)

A second letter called for developing a “sound master plan for use” of the Park instead of more court cases. Tom Loring said many areas were “already severely overused.” He noted decline of native flowering plants, shrubs and trees, erosion channels and invasive plants. Many events in the Park were no longer sustainable. “There are other sites, such as the Inner Harbour, where sensitive native plants are not at risk and where there would be room for popular events to grow.” (Times Colonist, January 27, 2000, A 11) [Other suitable areas close to Beacon Hill Park, in addition to the Inner Harbour, are St. Ann’s Academy, Clover Point and Ogden Point.]

City strategy: partial legal compliance while developing a management plan

Council’s decision not to appeal B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wilson's 1998 legal ruling did not mean the City would comply with it. Councillors continued to insist the “status quo” was appropriate, and that past uses and large events could continue, including advertising.

This was an unsatisfactory result for the Beacon Hill Park Rescue Coalition and other groups and individuals who had expended energy, time and money presenting their case in court. The Coalition had "won". The B.C. Supreme Court Justice endorsed every point their side presented. However, the “winners” could not force the City to comply.

Mayor Lowe had promised during the November, 1999 municipal election campaign that no new events would be scheduled in the Park until the City completed a long-term management plan. Almost immediately, however, Council voted to stage a large new event in the Park, the Luminara Lantern Festival. Mayor Lowe aggressively challenged the Coalition to sue the City if they didn’t want Luminara in the Park. (See Luminara section ahead.)

The main strategy used by the City to deflect further legal challenges was to undertake development of a Beacon Hill Park Management Plan. Begun in 2000, the Plan was only partially completed at the end of 2004. It could drag on until 2010. A Transportation Management Plan was anticipated for 2005, including data collection on traffic patterns in the Park by City staff and development of recommendations on closing or blocking off some streets, including one end of Heywood Ave. Joe Daly, Manager of Research, Planning and Design, anticipated hiring a consultant to prepare plans for “interpreting heritage resources” and developing plans for an Interpretative Centre. Never high on the agenda and even further in the future was development of a Native Plant Management Plan. (Meeting with Daly, October 28, 2004)

Continuing the process of public consultations, consultant reports and data gathering to “develop policies” buys time for City officials. Policies continually in the “development stage” but not “finalized” are difficult to criticize effectively. As the years pass, those opposed to overuse and commercialism in the Park--the Beacon Hill Park Coalition and other Park defenders who won in court--could die, move, tire or otherwise fade away.

Beacon Hill Park Management Plan Phase 1

AXYS Environmental Consulting Ltd. and Accord Canada of North Saanich won a $60,000 contract from the City of Victoria in September to develop Phase 1 of the Beacon Hill Park Management Plan. AXYS Environmental Consulting was responsible for project management and technical expertise; Accord Canada would handle the public participation process. Accord Canada spokesperson Craig Darling said, “We will create a forum in which people can come together for shared decision making...I’d be the last one to suggest it will be easy.”

Joe Daly, Manager of Research, Planning and Design, said the two companies were chosen over eleven others because they emphasized “consensus building.” The six month process--including a “Round Table” of “stakeholders,” public forums, open houses and surveys--was expected to be completed by March 31. (Times Colonist, September 22, 2000, B 1)

Large “status quo” public events continued

Two of the three largest special events referred to by Mayor Alan Lowe as “status quo” events--the Times Colonist 10K Run and the Great Canadian Picnic--were again staged in Beacon Hill Park, with some adjustments.

The Times Colonist 10K Run began at Superior and Government Streets in 2000 and finished next to the Douglas Street all-weather field in Beacon Hill Park. Advertising banners and tents with signs were displayed on the field where trucks and vans with prominent logos were parked. A “youngsters” run started at 9:45 at the Childrens’ Petting Zoo and a Fun Festival was held on the field following the runs. (Times Colonist, April 30, 2000 and May 1, 2000, p. ) In 2001, the 12th Annual Times Colonist 10K Run was again held in the Park, with advertising banners and corporate logos on vehicles and tents; 7,600 runners and walkers participated. The number increased to 7,842 in 2002; 9,947 participated in 2003. There was an all-time high of 10,673 participants on April 26 2004. Spectators added many more thousands at each run.

To date, the 10K Run has been the least compliant with the court ruling. City Council voted in November, 2003 to allow commercial sponsors of the Times Colonist 10K Run to advertise in the Park in 2004. Coun. Denise Savoie called that decision “a compromise” because banners and signs were limited in number and size. The detailed agreement limited the number of commercial trucks and food and beverage tents to six for each corporation, despite the fact that all banners and sizes were specifically prohibited by B. C. Supreme Court Justice Wilson in 1998. (See 2003 and 2004) It is not at all certain Council will obey the law in 2005.

The Great Canadian Family Picnic was staged in the Park centre in 2000, including the Cameron Bandshell area between Bridge Way and Circle Drive. The exotic grass lawns and pavement in that developed section of the Park was more resistant to trampling than native plant meadows. This was the last year the Picnic was held.

In 2000, the breast cancer “Run for the Cure” began at Ogden Point, a huge area with ample parking and where advertising banners could be displayed. The walk and run route led down Dallas Road and wound through the Park. 6,550 participated, raising $295,000 for breast cancer research. (Times Colonist, October 2, 2000, C 1)

The “Run for the Cure” is an emotional event for a good cause; speaking for a change of venue was a challenge for those who want to support good causes but also defend the Park from commercialization and habitat damage. Opponents of holding the run in the Park were accused of being against saving the lives of women.

Though Ogden Point is an ideal staging venue for several reasons, many Victorians continue to be angry about relocating the run there. (See 2004 for a bitter Oct. 6 column by Jack Knox.) An asphalt staging area is more sensible for the fall event, when rains are likely. In the past, crowds turned the grass into muddy goo and ruined their shoes when the event was staged on soggy lawns at the Park and at the Legislature.

Also continuing in the Park were the Royal Victoria Marathon and the AIDS Walk. Reporter Cindy Harnett wrote:

Typically, the city hands out six to eight special event permits a year for events that go through Beacon Hill Park, such as the 10K Run, the AIDS Walk, the Run for the Cure and the annual Royal Victoria Marathon. [In 2000], the city approved ten events for the park that each involved more than 500 people. Some, such as for the Snowbirds military air acrobatic show, require a park permit, while the runs and walks need special events permits. (Times Colonist, March 26, 2001)

Luminara festival: a new annual large event

Luminara bridge

Mayor Lowe had promised the “status quo” would be continued and no new large events would be staged in the Park until a long-term management plan was in place. Nevertheless, Council voted to stage a new event, the Luminara Lantern Festival. Billed as a one-time event, it instead became the largest annual event staged in the Park.

A spectacular millennium event called “Illuminares 2000" (later renamed Luminara Victoria) was first proposed in May, 1999. The event was planned to occur during the B. C. Summer Games and serve as a “cultural component” of the Games. Plans included processions of handmade paper lanterns, puppets, dancing and musical performances. Staged in the dark, it would create a “magical experience for the community, tourists and B. C. Games visitors.” Council approved the festival in principle, to be sponsored jointly by the City of Victoria and the Inter-Cultural Association of Victoria.

Two venues were considered for the July 29, 2000 event: Beacon Hill Park and the Inner Harbour. Some groups and residents spoke strongly against holding the event in the Park. They pointed out B. C. Supreme Court Justice R. D. Wilson’s 1998 decision expressly prohibited such uses. In addition, they remembered Mayor Alan Lowe assurances that no new events would be scheduled in the Park until a management plan was in place. Pushing for the Beacon Hill Park location were City staffers Wendy Zink, Donna Atkinson and Gail Price-Douglas. They signed a March 16, 2000 letter to Council promoting the Park as “the perfect setting.”

Dr. T. Christopher Brayshaw, in a paper titled “Playing with Fire,” stated:

These festivals should not be held in Beacon Hill Park, but in some other venue. The harbour suggests itself as an equally good setting; and has proven itself in connection with other events....At least the harbour won’t catch fire.

Much has been made of the argument that Beacon Hill Park is a good venue for festivals. But no thought has been given to the converse question of whether the festivals are good for the park.

Brayshaw pointed out many “areas have already reached the state where the rate of damage exceeds the possible rate of natural repair.” He described in detail how the trampling of crowds compacts soil and damages plants:

Trampling of even dormant plants causes damage below the ground surface, where it is not visible...Heavy trampling can crush and break the buds or roots of dormant plants, or affect them indirectly through compaction of the soil. Soil compaction interferes with the soil’s drainage, aeration and insulating capabilities. The roots of even dormant plants require some oxygen to stay alive. A compacted soil will become saturated with water during the winter; and the roots thus deprived of oxygen will die then.

The reduced insulating efficiency of compacted soil allows killing winter frosts to penetrate more deeply into such soil than they would into a normal, aerated soil; and to impact the deep-seated bulbs of less hardy species that otherwise would be below the reach of such frosts. The plants affected by trampling in the summer will probably die the following winter; and their deaths will become noticeable above ground only the following spring, when many expected plants fail to re-appear, or fail to flower. The progress of compaction damage is insidious and cumulative. Each succeeding incident of trampling by crowds will contribute its increment of damage; till the total degradation of the site becomes obvious; by which time it may well have become irreversible. (“Concerns Respecting the Proposed Illuminares 2000 Lantern Festivals--Playing with Fire,” T. Christopher Brayshaw, February 28, 2000, Friends of Beacon Hill Park files)

On March 23, City Council voted 6-2 to stage the Luminaras 2000 Festival at Goodacre Lake in Beacon Hill Park in partnership with the B. C. Summer Games.

Jane Lunt, who voted against using the Park said, “My preference is the Inner Harbour for the maximum benefit for the maximum number of people.” Gail Price-Douglas, Victoria’s community development planner, said “It’s ideal for the park.” Barbara Winters, B.C. Games special events director, told Council the Park was essential to success because of its greenery, intimacy and amenities like the Cameron Bandshell:

This is an intimate, participatory event of guests coming together with the community in a pageant of lanterns, small groups of entertainment that unfold throughout the park.

It requires a natural setting for it to come to life, for the magic to occur. None of that would be possible down in the concrete, well-lit, noisy setting of the Inner Harbour. (Times Colonist, March 24, 2000, C 5)

Coralee Bell, of the James Bay Neighbourhood Environment Association wrote: “I’d really like to know how it’s going to be intimate--4,000 people around Goodacre Lake, which is like a puddle.” Bell said Victoria’s Luminaras Festival was modeled after one at Trout Lake, but that lake is large and that park had a recreation centre. (Times Colonist, March 24, 2000, C 5)

Cornelia Lange, Fairfield resident, thought it would not be safer in the Park than the Inner Harbour: “It is a very dark area where there are no lights. You’re just counting on lantern lights. I think downtown is the place for this event.”

Helen Oldershaw, Chairperson of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, said Mayor Alan Lowe had promised there would be no new events held in the Park until a parks plan was completed. “It’s a betrayal...We should be working on the management plan first.” (Times Colonist, March 24, 2000, C 5)

Solicitors for the Beacon Hill Park Rescue Coalition wrote Council on March 31, 2000 stating the Luminara festival “is contrary to the terms of the Trust Agreement,” quoting Mr. Justice Wilson’s conclusion that the Park could not be used for “short term festival type events that may be offered to be held by non-profit societies.” Legal action was mentioned if the City proceeded. (March 31, 2000 letter by Richard S. Margetts, of Johns, Southward, Glazier, Walton and Margetts)

On April 14, City Council voted in favour of allowing the “millenium lantern festival” to proceed. Mayor Lowe thought the Inner Harbour site was more suitable and voted against the motion, but he then supported the Park location. At the Council meeting, Mayor Alan Lowe bristled at continued criticism of festivals in the Park and the threat of an injunction made by Beacon Hill Park Rescue Coalition lawyer. Lowe said the groups opposed to the Luminara Festival should either challenge it in court or not “bother the event organizers”:

Go ahead and do it so we all know what we are coming up against. If they strongly believe that we contravene the trust by allowing a Luminaras festival, which is non-commercial, well go and challenge it. I’m perfectly willing to challenge it in court.

Helen Oldershaw, President of the Beacon Hill Rescue Coalition, said Council was sending mixed signals. A few months before, they indicated existing events would be allowed to continue but no new events would be planned pending the results of a management plan for the Park. The Coalition had not decided if they would launch a legal challenge to the lantern festival. (Times Colonist, April 15, 2000, A 1, A 2)

The City contracted with the Inter-cultural Association to present the event. Associate Executive Direction of the Association Jean McCrae said Victoria committed $15,000 to the event. She expected 2,000-3,000 people. She thought the event was in keeping with the Park Trust because it was non-commercial and there would be no large tents. (Times Colonist, April 15, 2000, A 1, A 2)

An editorial the same day said Mayor Lowe had told opponents of the festival to “sue or shut up.” The writer continued: “Good for him. It’s about time someone called the bluff of those people who threaten an injunction every time some community group asks to hold a function that fails to meet the park puritans’ standard.” The newspaper said the city should have appealed “the 1998 court ruling that gave a narrow interpretation of that trust,” listing existing events which had corporate sponsorship such as the Garden City 10K Run, the breast cancer Run for the Cure and the Great Canadian Picnic. The editorial heaped scorn on “self-appointed park protectors...Why don’t they just build a four-metre wall around the place and be done with it?” (Times Colonist, April 15, 2000, A 13)

The Victoria News headlined: “Put up or shut up, Lowe tells fest critics.” They quoted Lowe saying if the critics didn’t go forward with a court injunction, they should not “bother the event organizers with this...I doubt that they’re going to do it.” Corallee Bell, member of the Beacon Hill Park Rescue Coalition, said of Lowe’s remarks: “It’s a deliberate provocation. If [the City] can’t respect what was given to them in trust, they should give it back to the province.”

Helen Oldershaw, President of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park and the Beacon Hill Park Rescue Coalition, said “We’re being very practical.” Pointing to the work necessary to restore Park property after a large festival, she said, “At this time, there’s not even enough maintenance to preserve it on a day to day basis.” The groups stated the Park was already overused and that large scale events drawing thousands of people should not be held there. The Friends were concerned about the fire hazard presented by lighted candles in a dry Park setting. They asked City Council to hold the event in the Inner Harbour. (Victoria News, April 19, 2000, p. 3)

A letter to the Times Colonist claimed the Luminara Lantern Festival was “an assault on the heron rookery.” Lillian Main wrote, “People who treasure the wildlife in Beacon Hill Park--the bald eagles, the raccoons, the squirrels--should be shouting their protests.” Main thought the lights and noisy crowds under heron nests would disturb them. “Herons are known to abandon their rookeries permanently when disturbed by human activity.” Instead of requesting the festival be moved to the Inner Harbour, Main wanted the event moved to another pond: “There’s a lake across from and east of the putting green. It is sufficiently distant from the heronry to leave the endangered herons undisturbed and to safeguard this rare and unusual wildlife attraction.” (Times Colonist, Islander, July 23, 2000, p. 13)

The fire hazard was downplayed by Victoria Fire Chief Frank Thoresen, who said: “We aren’t anticipating any problems at all. The organizers have taken, in my estimation, reasonable precautions and the fire department will be available if something happens.”

Resident Hennie Stibbe worried about “tippy” candles and vandals in the Park after watching brush fires burn in the Park earlier in the week:

With grass knee-high and bone dry and some 2,000 people holding some kind of paper construction with a candle in it, I can see that park going up in flames. Who is going to make sure they stay on pathways at 11 p.m.? I’m not a born-again tree hugger, but I love that Park and I watched that fire and it isn’t pretty.

Alice Bacon, Producer of the Luminara Victoria festival said every fire precaution had been taken: nearby grass was cut and watered, wet blankets and water were available. “We are asking people to use extreme caution. Lanterns are only permitted in designated areas.” She said the event was unique because of community involvement and that Artistic Director Marina Szijarto was transforming Beacon Hill Park into an outdoor art gallery. (Times Colonist, July 27, 2000, B 1)

The first Luminara Festival went ahead in the Park as planned on July 29. The evening event featured twenty five large-scale lantern installations including a huge illuminated hummingbird, plus small butterflies, jumping fish, and fire-breathing dragons. There were stilt walkers, fire dances and thirty performing groups.

A September 26, 2000 report to Council by Yvan Caron, Manager of Parks, stated Luminara attracted 10,000 people and was “a great success.” Caron wrote: “City Council requested that the Parks Division hire a consultant to assess soil compaction prior to and after the Luminara event...and no permanent damage was done.” It was clear, however that performers and installations should be moved away from Goodacre Lake to more open space and the procession routes into the Park needed improvement.

Though originally billed as a “millennium event,” Luminara became an annual event. The festival drew large crowds--attendance was about 15,000 in the years 2001-2004--but it did not violate legal commercial restrictions. It was staged on St. Ann’s Academy grounds, where sales and banners are permissible, and from there, crowds walk south into Beacon Hill Park for the evening. (See Luminara reports in 2001, 2003, 2004.)

Spectator events staged outside the Park draw large crowds

Special events staged outside the Park--in the air or ocean--frequently draw the largest numbers of spectators and their cars to Beacon Hill Park land. In the past, tens of thousands have gathered on Beacon Hill and along Dallas Road to view fireworks, air shows, ship maneuvers, the passing of the Royal Yacht, and Strait of Juan de Fuca marathon swimmers.

In 2000, crowds gathered to watch the start of the popular Swiftsure Yacht Race. In 2002 and 2003, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 spectators watched a spectacular show by the popular squadron of nine military jets called the Snowbirds over Clover Point. Difficulties with traffic and parking problems in 2002 included gridlock and damage from cars parking on Park grass. When evaluating the cumulative human impacts on the Park, these large event must be included.

Biodiversity in jeopardy without management plan

Dr. Adolf Ceska, curator of botany at the Royal B. C. Museum, believed Beacon Hill Park could serve as a people park and also preserve rare flora if a good management plan was in effect. In a January letter to the newspaper, he wrote:

What we need is a well-designed management plan that would give the city guidance on how to accommodate both these functions. Without a sensible management plan the biodiversity of Beacon Hill Park is in jeopardy, whether the adverse actions are legal or illegal. (Times Colonist, Islander, January 30, 2000, p. 14)

Ceska said Victorians had “forgotten what the real issues are” during protracted legal arguments about Park use. He pointed out Beacon Hill Park was an important site for rare and unusual plants; the Golden paintbrush, a rare native plant, had already disappeared from the Park about 1993. “Mass actions like the Great Canadian Picnic will have a negative effect on [rare plants] regardless what the Supreme Court decision is.”

Increased use was not the only reason rare plants were disappearing, he wrote: “the last known population of prairie lupine in B. C. was killed when the park workers burnt shrub clippings on top of it.” [In 1990, Ceska reported Park workers buried other rare plants when they built a monument commemorating a gift of Japanese cherry trees. (See 1990)]

In 2004, that portion of the park management plan has not yet been written. Manager of Research, Design and Development Joe Daly explained that a “Natural Area Management Plan” was planned which would address concerns about preserving rare plants and natural habitats. It would pull together information from the native plant inventory, the 2001 State of the Environment report and the 2004 Heritage Landscape Management Plan. (Oct. 28, 2004 meeting) However, the “Natural Area Management Plan” is at the very end of the multi-year management plan development process. In the meantime, environmental damage continues on a daily basis.

Toast to Churchill at his tree

Columnist Les Leyne invited readers to join him at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 23, at the hawthorn tree planted by Winston Churchill in Mayors Grove, Beacon Hill Park, in 1929. The occasion was the second annual toast to Sir Winston marking the anniversary of his death on January 24, 1965. (Times Colonist, January 22, 2000, A 17)

Linking St. Ann’s Academy grounds to Beacon Hill Park

Work to link the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy to Beacon Hill Park was announced in 2000. A crosswalk with light was planned at Southgate Street, which separates the Park from the Academy grounds. Vacant annex buildings, formerly used by the Victoria Conservatory of Music, were to be demolished and replaced with grass. In addition, a portion of the city street called Academy Close, from the Rainbow Mansion apartments to the first home east of the conservatory, would be closed and turned into green space. Mayor Alan Lowe praised the project and said he would like to see more “greenways” developed connecting playing fields and schools.

The Provincial Capital Commission contributed $500,000 as a “major millennial project.” The City of Victoria’s contribution was ripping up the street. An anonymous donation of $100,000 was to be used for planting trees on the site. St. Ann’s was vacated by the Sisters of St. Ann in 1974. The main building was redeveloped by the province at a cost of $16.2 million.(Times Colonist, January 28, 2000, B 1 & B 2)

In June, Council passed the bylaws needed to shut down a portion of Academy Close. 120 metres of asphalt would be removed and a pedestrian and cycling trail was planned. Joe Daly, Victoria’s manager of park design and development, said: “Visually it will feel like it’s a piece of [Beacon Hill Park].” (Times Colonist, June 28, 2000, C 3) [Though city officials often refer to the link to St. Ann’s as “expanding” Beacon Hill Park, the grounds are not part of the Park. Southgate Street, a busy arterial city street, was built on Park land, however, thereby isolating a section of Park land which adjoins the St. Ann's property on the north side of the street. Southgate Street separates Beacon Hill Park physically and visually from St. Ann's.]

Beacon Hill Park compared to Hastings Park

A letter comparing developments in Beacon Hill Park with Vancouver’s Hastings Park was printed in the Times Colonist in January. The writer, Jim Harvey, identified himself as Vice President of the Friends of Stanley Park and as the great-great grandson of A. C. Anderson, the man who began the legal battle to exclude an Agricultural Hall from Beacon Hill Park in 1882. Anderson’s legal challenge resulted in the landmark decision on Park use by Chief Justice Matthew Begbie in 1884.

Harvey pointed out that Beacon Hill and Hastings Park were protected by similar legally binding Trusts. Unlike Beacon Hill, however, Hastings Park was “gradually desecrated” by a series of developments, each in violation of the Trust, including “a horse race track, the Coliseum, a stadium, Playland, the gigantic Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) grounds, and vast parking lots.” (Times Colonist, January 18, 2000, A11)

Hastings Park’s 162 acres is similar in size to Beacon Hill Park (154 acres after deducting thirty acres of city streets built on Park land). By contrast, Stanley Park is 6.2 times larger, at 960 acres; Golden Gate Park is 1, 013 acres, 6.5 times larger; New York City’s Central Park is 800 acres, 5 times larger than Victoria’s main park.

Police horses

Mic, a popular 13-year-old Victoria Police horse, was retired in May. Dying of cancer, Mic would spend a short retirement at the Police barn in Beacon Hill Park before being put down. In 2000, the Victoria Police Department stabled three horses--Jet, Mic and Domi--in the Park. The patrol started in 1984 with one horse.

The 1999 budget for the six-month program was $102,494, which included two officers salary and year round care of the horses, but Deputy Chief John Lane said: “The horses are incredible when we deal with large crowds like New Year’s Eve. They have an ability to penetrate the crowd in an emergency. If needed they can move a lot of people in a manner which won’t create aggression.” (Times Colonist, May 18, 2000, A 1, A 2) [The horse patrol was canceled in 2002.]

Grass fires

There were two suspicious grass fires in Beacon Hill Park within the space of a half hour on July 25. Firefighters found a book of matches at the scene of one grass fire “near the duck pond on Dallas Road.” [Apparently the Harrison Yacht Pond at Holland Point.] A second fire behind the Children’s Petting Zoo put staff on alert, but they were not forced to evacuate. (Times Colonist, July 26, 2000, C 3)

Restoration project on the Northwest Ridge

A Northwest Ridge Restoration project was begun by the Friends of Beacon Hill Park in February. Brenda Costanzo, writing in the “Newsletter of the North American Plant Society,” described the project:

In February, 2000, [the Friends] planted a variety of native species in a Garry oak/rock outcrop area that had been degraded by mountain bikers. In this site, clumps of small Quercus garryana seedlings were set out in three bed-like arrangements dug out of the non-native grass under existing Garry oaks. These oak seedlings were complemented by several species of native shrubs and perennials including: red-flowering currant, Nootka rose, fawn lilies, shooting stars, satin flower and two species of camas.

Due to the various changes and uses within the Park...these sensitive Garry oak habitats have been altered by development, mowing, planting of exotic species and seeding of large areas with non-native grasses...Once native species have been disturbed, they are susceptible to replacement by aggressive exotic species such as Scotch broom in open areas, and English ivy and holly in wooded areas. (Brenda Costanzo, “Newsletter of the North American Plant Society,” reprinted in Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, October, 2001)

This was the second restoration project undertaken by the Friends. In 1990, they began restoration work in the Southeast Woods. Native species carefully watered and tended by the Friends on the Ridge were accidentally mowed three different years by new Park staff unaware of the restoration project. See 2001 and 2003.

Spring at the Children’s Petting Zoo

Kids and goats mix well

About twenty baby goats, usually the favorite animal of both adults and children, cavorted around the Beacon Hill Park Children’s Petting Zoo in April as usual. Just before Easter, however, visitors focused on baby bunnies placed on a special table in one of the gazebos and fluffy chicks. The SPCA hoped parents would bring children to visit these animals and not buy chicks, ducks and rabbits as Easter pets. (Times Colonist, April 20, 2000, E 12)

Finlayson Point meadow destroyed by overuse

Finlayson Pt. damage   2004 Holland Pt. meadow

In these two May 9 photos, the contrast between Finlayson Point and Holland Point--areas that were comparable before--is striking. For thousands of years, wildflowers and grasses grew tall on both points. A spectacular display of blue camas flowers covered both areas each spring. Today, only bare dirt and a few tough weeds are left on Finlayson Point because the City of Victoria allowed off-leash dogs and their owners to overuse the area. A beautiful prairie of mixed native and European grass species containing many wildflowers and native plants still grows on Holland Point.

In a July 19, 2000 paper, botanist Dr. T. Christopher Brayshaw pointed out Finlayson Point had been severely degraded and had clearly exceeded its carrying capacity. When it was a transit area that people walked through, the meadow was healthy. He described the change:

"In recent years the grassland area at Finlayson Point has progressively become a destination area where people gather to socialize and run their dogs. As a consequence, the vegetation there has become conspicuously degraded, until in places the soil is largely bare or only thinly vegetated.

"By contrast, adjacent Holland Point is still used mostly by people as a transit area; grassland vegetation is still relatively healthy. Many native plant species gone from Finlayson still survive around Holland Point.

"[The comparison of Finlayson and Holland Points] holds a lesson for us on Carrying Capacity. The Finlayson Point area has clearly exceeded its capacity to absorb the trampling impact of crowds of people and still recover its integrity; and now presents a prospect of irreversible degradation.

"The southern slope of Beacon Hill is approaching a similar condition...Any scheme that will increase the user-pressure on the park above the present level can only further accelerate the rate of degradation." (Dr. T. Christopher Brayshaw, "An Assessment of the Condition of Finlayson Point in BHP and a Camparison with Holland Point," July 19, 2000)

Because Finlayson and Holland Points shared the same four natural vegetation types (a combination of natural grassland, moist deciduous groves on the level uplands, seaward slopes scrub and beach head and spray zone), a comparison illustrates valuable park management lessons.

The World’s Tallest Totem declared a safety hazard

The “World’s Tallest Totem Pole,” standing in Beacon Hill Park since 1956, had “rotted beyond repair,” the Times Colonist reported in August. A “team of experts,” told City Council the pole “must be removed for safety reasons.” Mayor Alan Lowe said he would ask for a second opinion. “I’m hoping it can be left up. Let’s make sure we look at all angles before we take it down. It’s been a prominent feature of Beacon Hill Park.” (Times Colonist, August 24, 2000, A 1)

The 127 foot 7 inch (38.8 metre) totem pole was carved from a single cedar log by Chief Mungo Martin, noted Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw) carver, with a team including his son David and Henry Hunt. It was erected in the southeast corner Beacon Hill Park on Circle Drive, close to Dallas Road, on June 30, 1956.

The Beacon Hill Park pole remains the tallest free-standing totem in the world carved from one tree. A 173 foot (56.4 metre) totem pole erected in Alert Bay in 1973 surpassed Victoria’s in height but was made by splicing two poles; it was also supported by cables.

The Park pole was due for restoration and painting in 2000, but City staff, two native carvers, and “an experienced totem pole restorer” concluded that restoration was impossible. Native artist Richard Hunt thought there could be ways to keep it standing: “It still is a beautiful pole. It signifies the rebirth of Northwest Coast art as an art form instead of a craft.”

Parks Manager Yvon Caron said the pole had to come down, but he thought it could be restored. He said the pole had “wet wood” in the top nine metres plus several visible points. “It could stand for another three years but it could fall could blow apart into many fragments.” He thought cranes should take it down in zero wind and before fall rains. It would have to be stored horizontally somewhere. The estimated cost to lower, transport and store the pole was $5,500.

Royal B. C. Museum head of conservation Val Thorp explained placing galvanized zinc raincaps over tops of peaks of poles lengthen their lives. “Traditionally, poles were put up so that they would rot into the ground. Now everybody including bands want them to stay forever.” (Times Colonist, August 24, 2000, p. A 2)

City Council decided to leave the pole standing while considering options and getting more advice. Mayor Lowe thought the top could be cut off: “Better a partial pole than no pole.” Caron advocated removing it immediately. Coun. David McLean wanted to explore all options to save the pole. Coun. Pam Madoff said the pole was a prized piece of public art as well as a cultural icon. She pointed out storage would be a problem because the pole was curved like a banana.

Leslie McGarry, niece of native artist Richard Hunt and culture and recreation director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, reminded everyone that deterioration was natural for a pole: “This pole has told its story. It’s in a really sad state of repair. It could snap and fall. It’s crucial that it come down. It’s a hazard.” (Times Colonist, Aug. 25, 2000, p. B 1)

The pole was examined on August 30 by four marine professionals experienced in wood preservation. They determined the pole had a minimum 90% structural integrity and could be repaired if taken down. A thirteen-member technical committee was formed to recommend how to proceed. Coun. Pam Madoff estimated $50,000 would be enough to lower the pole, transport it to the Beacon Hill Park maintenance yard, then dry, restore and erect it again. She anticipated it could be re-erected during the annual First People’s Festival in August. A report to Council recommended hiring six carvers to repair, carve and repaint the pole. (Times Colonist, September 14, 2000, A 1 & A 2)

City Council unanimously approved that recommendation on September 14. “Everybody’s totally on side,” Madoff reported. Work would proceed quickly before rains softened the ground and created problems for the heavy cranes needed. City staff were directed to immediately devise a hoop house, a heated storage tent similar to a green house, to house the horizontal pole. Madoff hoped people would contribute to the project by buying shares. In 1956, 10,000 people bought shares to pay for the creation of the pole. (Times Colonist, September 15, 2000, F 2)

Lifting the totem poleTotem pole on the truck

Taking down the pole on November 1 was a difficult job because of the extreme length of the fragile pole and its pronounced curve. The volunteer effort included a crew from the Victoria Fire Department, Nickel Brothers House Moving, Point Hope Shipyard and L. B. Crane Rental. It was placed in a green-house type structure made of hoops and polyethylene in the Park Maintenance Yard, where it was to dry for several months. A fund-raising campaign was to be organized to raise $50,000. (Times Colonist, November 2, 2000, D 1)

On November 4, reporter Jeff Bell wrote “All that remains at the site of the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole is the special base that allowed it to stand tall for 44 years without supporting wires.” (Times Colonist, November 4, 2000, C 1)

In April, 2001, a restoration team began work on the pole. (See 2001.)


Bald Eagles in Beacon Hill Park

Bald Eagle perched

Beacon Hill Park has been the territory of a mated pair of Bald Eagles for many years. In winter months, the two can often be seen perched together on a favorite treetop at the corner of Dallas Road and Cook Street.

The Eagles have two nest sites in the Park. One massive platform of sticks can be seen in a tall cottonwood close to Douglas Street near Fountain Lake. Looking from the sidewalk on the other side of Douglas Street, the nest is especially prominent when the tree has lost its leaves. The other Eagle nest is located next to the old Aviary directly above Bridge Way; discarded fish skeletons and feathers from Eagle meals fall on the roadway. Visitors walking through the Park often hear an Eagle’s piercing scream in that area.

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a huge, powerful bird. Eagles weigh an astonishing 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg.)--almost twice the weight of a Heron--and their wingspan is six and a half feet (2 metres). Adults have distinctive white heads and tails; their yellow legs are thick; their talons razor sharp. Park visitors frequently witness Eagles catching Mallards, gulls and heron chicks. Researchers report Eagles killing and eating adult herons. Eagles are capable of capturing and carrying away prey nearly half their own weight, about five pounds.

Dramatic Eagle and Heron interactions

Soaring Bald Eagle

An Eagle attack on the Park’s Heron colony is a dramatic event. As the predator swoops low over the colony, ready to grab a Heron chick with his talons on the fly, the thunderous cries of adult Herons alert observers to the wildlife spectacle. A mass flight of over 100 screaming, circling Herons soon darken the sky. Though impressive to human observers, the Heron displays are completely ignored by Eagles. Herons have no effective way to defend their nests; they must take off to protect themselves.

If an Eagle succeeds in grabbing a chick in its talons, it lands in a nearby Park tree to dismember and consume it. Heron feathers falling like snow lead observers to the eagle’s perch.

If the hunt is unsuccessful, the Eagle usually turns and makes repeated passes low over the nests while adult Herons continue their cries of alarm and mass flights. If still unsuccessful, the Eagle will often land nearby on top of a tree, sometimes on one of the Heron nest trees. Sitting quietly, Eagles are difficult to spot unless crows are dive-bombing their enemy. Crows dive repeatedly at their heads, helpfully pinpointing the Eagle's perch for observers at the same time. When the Eagle takes off for another pass over the nests, adult Herons again rise screeching into the air. This scenario plays out over and over until the Eagle successfully grabs a chick or flies off. As Eagles fly away from the Park, gulls harass them in the air.

In years when the Eagles did not nest in the Park--2001, 2003 and 2004--they still returned to their territory to feast on chicks in the Heron colony nests.

The effect of Eagles predation on the productivity of the Beacon Hill Park colony is an open question. Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Philip Whitehead claimed in 1988 that Eagle predation would not significantly impact the Heron colony population. In 2001, Heron researcher Ross Vennesland disagreed. He noted some other Heron colonies with Eagle nests nearby and subjected to constant Eagle predation, had been abandoned. Vennesland said the number of Heron nests in Beacon Hill Park had almost doubled from 35 in 1999 to 65 in 2001, but that could change:

We’re quite worried about the future. The Beacon Hill colony is, generally, getting attacked pretty heavily by Eagles, so nest productivity is pretty low. The number of chicks is low because of Eagle attacks and that pretty much goes for all Vancouver Island colonies. (Times Colonist, May 8, 2001, A 1, A 2)

Park gardener Al Cunningham told reporter Cindy Harnett he picked up twelve dead Heron chicks one morning under the nest trees. He said when young Herons see Eagles coming they “plain run off into the air and drop down 80 feet and bounce off the ground. It’s a natural death but it’s still pretty brutal.”

Park visitors tend to identify with the prey more than with the predator, but Vennesland pointed out both birds have existed since the ice age, “We should not put Herons higher than Eagles in value just because they are the ones getting eaten.”

Vennesland said the increase observed in Eagle predation on Heron nesting colonies might be caused by the ten fold increase in Eagle populations in B. C. since the 1960's. Eagle populations were previously at an artificially low number because of human poisons. Since pesticides like DDT were banned and hunters were required to use steel shot instead of toxic lead shot, Eagle populations could be back up to normal levels. It is also possible Eagles are targeting herons more often because of decreased salmon and other fish stocks. Biologist Ann Eissinger believes the collapse of in-shore fish stocks is affecting Eagle behaviour, especially that of juveniles. (Times Colonist, May 8, 2001, A 1, A 2)

Some biologists have suggested that an Eagle nest located close to a Heron colony--as is the case in Beacon Hill Park--could benefit the colony by reducing predation to only two resident Eagles. Other Eagles are not tolerated in a mated pair’s territory and therefore the number of Heron chicks eaten could be limited.

Vennesland gathered data at thirty-five Heron colonies--including Beacon Hill Park--over the two year period 1998-1999. In 2004, Vennesland and Butler published an article in the magazine Waterbirds comparing data gathered for Vennesland’s Masters Thesis (“The effects of disturbance from humans and predators on the breeding decisions and productivity of the Great Blue Heron in south-central British Columbia,” Ross G. Vennesland, 2001) with earlier heron research data gathered by Butler (Robert W. Butler, The Great Blue Heron, UBC Press, 1997). The authors suggested:

Great Blue Heron breeding failure was more frequent in 1998 and 1999 compared to a decade ago because of the combined effects of human disturbance from land development and an increased frequency of Eagle predation. (Vennesland and Butler, “Factors Influencing Great Blue Heron Nesting Productivity on the Pacific Coast of Canada from 1998 to 1999,” Waterbirds 27 (3) 2004: 289-296)

The article contained an interesting piece of information for Park visitors who look for and examine empty egg shells thrown out of nests by adult Herons: “Avian predators typically open a heron egg by punching a hole along the long axis, whereas a hatched eggshell is perforated around the equator.” With this clue, an observer will be able to guess, by the way the egg was opened, if the chick hatched normally or was eaten by an Eagle or a crow.

Nesting success in Heron colony despite Eagle attacks

Great Blue Heron nest tree

Active nests in the Great Blue Heron colony in Park trees at Douglas Street and Avalon numbered 65 in 2001. Despite eagle predation, 60 chicks fledged. (Ross Vennesland, Great Blue Heron Breeding Colony Database, Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management)

Phase 1 of the Park Management Plan

In September, 2000, the City awarded a $60,000 contract to AXYS Environmental Consulting Ltd. and Accord Canada to develop Phase 1 of the Beacon Hill Park Management Plan. Phase 1 focused on two questions:

      1. What does the public think is appropriate use of Beacon Hill Park?

       2. What level of use is appropriate to ensure that the Park is preserved for future generations?
         (Beacon Hill Park Management Plan Phase 1, Summary Report, July, 2001, p. 1)

To answer the two questions, there was to be “broad public consultation,” including an Open House at City Hall and a survey questionnaire, and a “Round Table” series of discussions in which “stakeholders” participated in a “shared decision-making process.”

The first meeting of the Round Table took place January 27, 2001; the last meeting was May 11-12, 2001. Ten sectors were represented: the City of Victoria, Community, Environment, Inter-Municipal Recreation, Licensed Users, Natural History, Park Users, Sponsored Community Events, Sports and Recreation, and Tour Operators. The facilitator, Craig Darling, led long “consensus-building” discussions focused on “sharing" general “visions,” “goals,” and “dreams.”

Councillor Bea Holland informed Council in March that the James Bay Neighbourhood Environment Association had pulled out of the “consensus-building process.” After attending a “very difficult” meeting with the JBNEA, Holland reported some members of the group did not like the “consensus-building process” and believed the City had a hidden agenda. “They have a serious misunderstanding of this table’s intent with the roundtable,” Holland stated. Mayor Alan Lowe said, “We believe it is a good process. Unfortunately, some people pulled out...consensus building is hard.” (Times Colonist, March 16, 2001, C 2)

While the “stakeholders” struggled through long meetings, a parallel “public consultation” process began with the distribution of a survey questionnaire. The questionnaire invited public responses without reference to legal limits already established in the Park Trust and two B.C. Supreme Court rulings, a significant omission.

A Times Colonist editorial noted the survey bias, writing that it invited the public to respond without reference to the key legal restrictions which specified the Park is “a nature park and ornamental garden with playing fields” and ruled “for-profit” activities were excluded. The editorial stated some questions in the survey questionnaire “fail to conform” to the uses established in two B.C. Supreme Court rulings [Begbie and Wilson].(Times Colonist, March 26, 2001, A 7)

On March, 28, the day of the Open House at City Hall, an editorial with a different slant said the Park’s operation should not “be dictated by people long dead,” such as B.C. Chief Justice Begbie, and that occasional commercial activities wouldn’t hurt the Park. Park services should be “more people-friendly...It should be a people place, filled with vitality rather than stringent rules.” (Times Colonist, March 28, 2001, A 14)

“Approximately 200 people” attended the Open House, according to the City of Victoria website. They expressed a wide range of opinions. Harry Janzen, who did not live in Victoria, wanted an expanded zoo and a solarium; in addition he wanted a restaurant so he could eat Sunday breakfast in the Park. John Luton wanted the Park closed to cars but wanted the zoo, lawn bowling and cricket continued. Betty Gibbens, a strong defender of a non-commercial, undeveloped Park for more than twenty years, wore the badge “Former Round Table participant.” Gibbens was excluded from the process for not agreeing to its terms. She said the management plan ignored the essential Park Trust. When Coun. Helen Hughes said family-oriented commercial activities in the Park “are part of the Park’s evolution through time,” Gibbens responded that “Commerce is not natural evolution. It’s a man-made and money-making evolution.” (Times Colonist, March 29, 2001, B 1 & B 2)

Rosaline Canessa of AXYS Environmental Consulting, said the first 695 questionnaires printed were not sufficient and another 1,000 were ordered. “We’ve received tonnes of questionnaires.” The deadline for handing them in was April 6. (Times Colonist, March 29, 2001, B 1 & B 2) The City of Victoria website stated 1200 questionnaires were distributed and 623 responses received plus letters and emails.

In September, “about $90,000 and one year after Phase 1" began, Council accepted the result of the Round Table process. This included a “consensus vision” and thirty-one goals for the use of the Park. Among the more concrete goals were managing the petting zoo as a non-profit operation under parks staff, opening the Lawn Bowling Club to park users and increased enforcement of off-leash dog bylaws.

A major topic, commercialism in the Park, was deferred. The Round Table was to reconvene in late October to focus on commercialism. Mayor Lowe said if the Round Table did not reach consensus on the issue by the end of 2001, Council would have to work out a solution. Manager of Park Design Joe Daly said:

We’ve developed a vision and goals. We’ve got a solid foundation for moving forward...and we’re going to, in the next three months, deal with the most difficult issue of commercialism in the Park. The level of commercialism is going to be at a very limited level. You’re not going to see Disneyland there.” (Times Colonist, September 21, 2001, p. C 3)

The last two sentences of Daly’s statement were revealing: it was clear he and other City officials fully intended to allow some degree of commercialism and expected the “consensus” process to work out how much that would be. That result would be a “compromise.” Those who had fought for decades to exclude commercialism from the Park and “won” the 1998 court victory banning any and all commercialism, were not likely to welcome a “compromise” which allowed it. (See 2002 for the next episode.)

Three consultant reports published

Three bound Beacon Hill Park Management Plan Phase 1 reports were submitted to the City of Victoria by the private company AXYS Environmental Consulting Ltd. in July, 2001. The Final Report contained 99 pages, including colouring maps, fold-out pages, plus seventy-five pages of appendices; the State of the Environment was 35 pages long, including colour maps, fold-out pages, and twenty pages of appendices; and the Summary Report, a slim 19 pages plus printing on both inside covers.

The Summary Report presented the results of eleven meetings of the Round Table, “over 70 hours” of discussions heavily focused on "sharing" to "reach consensus" on such vague topics as “visions,” “goals” and “dreams.” Those jargon-filled hours must have been a struggle for those longing for specifics and straight talk. The publication acknowledged many people thought the whole process was utterly useless:

Some members of the public...thought that the vision needed to be less vague in its description of the types of activities to be permitted, failed to address the issue of commerce in the park and was too ambiguous regarding how the park will be managed, thus leaving the door open for unacceptable development and change. (Beacon Hill Park Management Plan Phase 1, Summary Report, July, 2001, p. 6)

There is a significant error on page 4. A “background” section refers to “rulings by Justices Begbie (1883), Bonner (1957), and, most recently, Wilson (1998).” R. Bonner was not a Justice of any kind and does not belong in that company. Begbie and Wilson were both B.C. Supreme Court Justices; both issued rulings against commercialism. Bonner was a pro-commercialism Attorney General of B. C. He did not give a “ruling.” He did send his opinion to the City of Victoria in 1954 and again in 1957 indicating the City should be able to do what it wanted with the Park. Incorrectly listing Bonner with the two real Justices elevated his lesser opinion to their level and gave the impression there was a variety of judicial opinion on the issue. (The Begbie decision was in 1884, not 1883, as stated in the report.)

There were thirty-one “goals” listed on page 8 and twenty-two recommendations on page 18. Action, if any, was to come later; Phase 1 was designed to develop a “vision and goals” and general “guidelines.”

A page titled “Looking Toward the Future: The Round Table’s Vision for Beacon Hill Park,” was printed prominently on the inside cover of the report and again on page six. It includes fine sounding statements about maintaining and enhancing “attributes.” However, “hedge” words and “weasel” clauses included elsewhere in the document served to dilute strong guidelines. Specific decisions on Park use were left to future unknown individuals who were to interpret what “acceptable” and “appropriate” uses and developments of the Park might be. The two words--acceptable and appropriate--are forever vague and flexible, subject to the interpretative whims of future committees or Councils.

The State of the Environment Report has real content and interesting coloured maps. Botanist Dr. T. Christopher Brayshaw, the foremost authority on the plants of Beacon Hill Park, provided consultants with lists of native plants. The report contains detailed descriptions and a map of the eight “Native Vegetation Types” in Beacon Hill Park: Grassland, Garry oak woods with grassy ground cover, Garry oak woods with shrubby ground cover, Douglas-fir woods, Black cottonwood semi-swamp forest, Moist deciduous groves, Seaward slopes scrub, and Spray zone and beachhead. (State of the Environment, p. 7-16) Ornamental areas are described on pages 16-18, including a map. One of the few available acreage figures for the Park is given: “Landscaped and ornamental areas of the Park comprise approximately 13.7 hectares [33.8527 acres], or 19% of Beacon Hill Park.”

A section titled “Geology, Hydrology and soils” includes the following: “Evidence of glaciation is visible at Finlayson Point, where features such as glacial scratches, grooves, striations, roche moutonnee and crag-and-tail can be seen.” (State of the Environment, p. 5) Seven areas of erosion along the Dallas Road shoreline within the Park boundary are pinpointed on a page six map, another two areas between the Park and Clover Point, and three areas west of Holland Point.

These cliffs are currently estimated to be receding by as much as twelve centimetres per year, which has necessitated the relocation of the footpath along the top of the cliffs at least three times over the past one hundred years. It is estimated that the cliffs have receded by about 10 metres since 1800 (Yorath and Nasmith 1995). (State of the Environment, p. 5)

The section on “Wildlife” in the Park is weak. The consultant report quotes an inadequate “wildlife study” done for the City of Victoria Parks Department by David Major in 2000 that should have been discarded. The report was not based on first-hand research and is poorly sourced; it is vague, misleading, useless and often wrong. Major’s statement on bats is an example: “Keen’s long-eared myotis, Townsend’s big-eared bat and the house mouse are suspected to occur.” The last three words tell us nothing. (“Beacon Hill Park Wildlife Survey,” City of Victoria Parks Department, 2000, 7 pages)

There has been no thorough overall wildlife study done, but there is good data on the heron colony and hawk nesting. The report includes discussion of Herons and mentions researcher Ross Vennesland, but there is no reference to wildlife biologist Andrew Stewart, who has banded Hawks in the Park for years. (See next section.)

Sadly, State of the Environment does not focus on strong recommendations for specific actions to protect the habitats and wildlife described. Any specific information in the report is merely a part of the “framework for Phase Two of the Management Plan.”

The third published booklet, titled Final Report, includes 42 pages of “Facilitator’s Notes of Round Table Meeting.” There are nine colourful maps providing interesting perspectives, but it is difficult to assess their accuracy. Maps show special event areas, monuments, buildings, areas of overuse, landscaped areas and vegetation zones (repeated from the Environment report). All parking spaces in the Park are listed on page 29. After subtracting some Dallas Road spaces not within Park boundaries on the list, the total was 608 parking spaces.

There is no index provided in any of the reports, a major omission. Using the reports effectively--already a daunting task--is almost impossible without a good index.

Cooper’s Hawks

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperii) hunt year-round in the Park. Their long tails--easily seen in flight and when the bird is perched--enable them to outmaneuver prey. These crow-size Hawks catch and eat small birds such as robins, sparrows, finches, starlings, pigeons and the occasional rat.

Because they are faster and smaller than Herons and Eagles, Cooper’s Hawks are more difficult to observe. However, one or two hawk nests are found in Beacon Hill Park every year and plenty of dramatic hawk action can be observed at nest locations. Park visitors should listen in the spring (especially in March) for hawk calls--a distinctive kek-kek-kek--and watch for birds carrying sticks. Once a nest-site is discovered, visitors can return many times to watch parents feed their chicks, older birds venturing out of the nest onto close branches and their first flights to nearby trees. Young birds stay in the nest area being fed by their parents until about August 15.

Most hawks seen in the Park have coloured bands on their left legs, often visible without binoculars. Females have red bands, males wear black bands. With binoculars, the band code--a mixture of two numbers or letters, unique to each bird--can be seen. Wildlife biologist Andy Stewart has personally banded every Hawk in the region as part of an on-going study of the breeding ecology of urban-nesting Cooper’s Hawks in Greater Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula. On June 26, 2001, Stewart banded five Cooper’s Hawk chicks in a nest on Arbutus Way. Stewart said the nine-year-old mother, wearing band Red “P over 5," had a young male mate.

Banding a baby Cooper's Hawk

Stewart enlists a helper to climb nest trees and lower the chicks in a backpack with a rope. When Andy bands a bird, as shown in this photo, he also weighs it, measures the upper leg diameter and length and upper beak length. He even measures the height of the nest by attaching a tape onto the backpack as it is pulled back up to replace the banded nestlings.

You can contribute to the hawk study by reporting all sightings of banded Cooper’s Hawks to Andy Stewart. If possible, record the band colour and code, date, time and location. Even if you are unable to determine the band code, band colour in itself provides very useful data. Contact:

[More detailed information and photos of Cooper’s hawks can be found in several sections of this history. A fallen nest and chicks rescued by Stewart in Beacon Hill Park is featured in Chapter 19, 2004. Hawk nests are described in Chapter 20, 2005, Chapter 21, 2006 and Chapter 22, 2007. Chapter 23, 2008, includes photos and descriptions of adult hawks captured using a live owl decoy. For a detailed description of Andy Stewart’s research project, including photos and a map of nests in the region, click on the Articles section on the Beacon Hill Park History homepage, then on the first article listed under Wildlife titled “Passion for Hawks”.]

Totem pole restoration campaign

The world’s tallest free-standing totem pole was taken down November 1, 2000 and stored in a greenhouse-type structure in the Park Maintenance Yard. Months of drying would be necessary before decayed wood would be stripped away. Kwakwaka’wakw Chief Mungo Martin’s 127 feet eight inch (38.8 metre) cedar totem pole, erected in 1956, was badly in need of restoration.

On January 18, Coun. Pam Madoff met with a wood restoration expert and volunteers at the Maintenance yard to examine the pole. They hoped to restore and re-erect it at the same Beacon Hill Park location in August. Madoff was relieved the weakened pole had been lowered in one piece: “The most important thing was to get it secured and under cover and dried and that worked out really well.” She said interest was growing in the project, which was likely to cost $50,000. “I was just really excited to hear the interest from Fort Rupert where Mungo Martin lived. There’s a lot of his family members who would like to be involved in his legacy.” She expected a dozen carvers and painters would work simultaneously on different sections of the pole. (Times Colonist, January 18, 2001, D 3)

The campaign to fund the restoration and reinstallation of the pole was launched May 22, 2001. Called “To Rise Again,” (“I’tusto” in Kwakwaka’wakw), the campaign hoped to raise a total of $95,000 by selling $5 shares. $50,000 would be for the pole restoration plus $45,000 for future maintenance and on site interpretative service. The campaign was similar to the community drive in 1956 when 10,000 people--including Winston Churchill, Bing Crosby and Gracie Fields--bought 50 cent shares to pay for the pole to be carved and erected. (Times Colonist, April 15, C 1, May 23, 2001, A 1)

Leslie McGarry, great granddaughter of Mungo Martin and a staff member of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, said: “This is a masterpiece that we can’t afford to lose...It’s an important piece of our history...It keeps the culture alive.” Tony McCormick, an organizer of the “To Rise Again” campaign, said re-carving the pole would begin in a few weeks. “Right now we’re getting through the rotten wood. That’s where master boatbuilder Bent Jesperson comes in. We’re using marine technology to bond the new wood on.” (Times Colonist, May 23, 2001, p. 1, A 1)

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the pole. In a letter to the Times Colonist, Victoria resident Redner Jones wrote the much-lauded shareholder campaign of 1956 was actually “a clever promotion designed to enhance downtown business interests.” Jones did not believe a June advertisement claiming “To Rise Again” donations “ensured the pole became a symbol of cooperation between the First Nations and Victoria communities.” Jones thought it would be more appropriate if “our native people replace [the pole] with something of their choice...No promotion, no corporate symbols, no world’s this-or-that.” He advocated the Management Plan be in place before replacing the pole. (Times Colonist, June 24, 2001, A 9)

By July 9, only $4,500 worth of shares had been raised, though the desired total had climbed to $100,000. Campaign spokesperson Joanna Fox said, “We’ve run a very soft campaign. We haven’t been an in-your-face fund-raising campaign yet, but we’re going that way this week.” A sidebar to the article included a description of three kayak prizes to entice people to buy shares. (Times Colonist, July 9, 2001, p. B 2)

By July 16, the estimated total cost to remove the pole, store, restore, re-erect it and create a celebration had grown to $182,000. “More than $122,000 of in-kind support” had been raised and “$6,750 in cash donations (shares).” Ten Thrifty Foods stores and the Royal B. C. Museum agreed to provide locations for signing up shareholders. Shares could also be purchased at the restoration site, on the internet, at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, Capital Iron and at Ivy’s Bookstore.

The Parks Department budgeted $18,000 in 2000 to remove and paint the pole; that amount had been overspent. Due to an error, nothing for the project was budgeted in 2001, Parks Director Donna Atkinson admitted. The hoop house had a capital cost of $27,000. Atkinson requested Council give another $6,000 for the pole re-erection, for a total of $51,000. City Council approved a capital grant of $51,000 toward the “To Rise Again” campaign. (Times Colonist, July 16, 2001, B 1, B 2)

Tony McCormick, chairman of the restoration committee, reported the Esquimalt military base, native carvers and local shipbuildings were working together to restore the pole: “I think [the pole] is stronger now than the day it went up. The top 50 feet has been completely restored, recarved and the bottom four figures have been completely re-knifed.” The pole would be sealed in the following two weeks, then an artist would complete the painting. Visitors were welcome to visit the hoop house behind the tennis courts and watch the restoration work. (Times Colonist, July 16, 2001, B 1, B 2)

Vern Point, a member of the Chehalis First Nation who had permission from the Chief of Defence Staff to wear his hair in a traditional braid, was released from his duties as a hull technician with the Canadian Navy to supervise the restoration. Bent Jesperson, master boat builder, devised a way to rebuild thin areas of the pole with three layers of inter-locking planks held in place with acrylic epoxy. Epoxy was poured into long cracks as well.

Karla Point, Vern’s wife and a councillor of the Hesquiaht band, explained totem pole tradition. Poles telling the stories of families are not restored; they are allowed to topple over. Since the Park pole was a visual work, not a family pole, it could be restored without offending tradition. (Times Colonist, July 22, 2001, C 6)

Totem Pole

The pole-raising, originally scheduled for August, had to be rescheduled for September 8, then put off again. The carving and paint removal processes took longer than planned. Tony McCormick explained there was also more drying needed than expected before painting was possible. The moisture content of the wood had to be under 12% before undercoating and sealant were applied. He said the weather was perfect for sealant to be applied over the weekend: “We want to get the seal coat on it before it gets too humid out again. Right now it is very dry, exactly where we want it.” The following week would be the final step: painting the pole with a colourful acrylic enamel. McCormick said they hoped to raise the pole before the ground became water-logged, which would cause trouble for the cranes.

By September, the “To Rise Again” campaign had raised $185,000 of the $235,000 target. Close to 3,000 shares at five dollars each were sold. (Times Colonist, September 11, 2001, B 1)

Totem Pole bottom

At last, on October 29, 2001, the totem pole was erected. Victoria firefighter Steve Sharples, a member of the volunteer committee, said ten different organizations worked together to raise the pole, among them Nickel Brothers, L. B. Cranes, Crane Force, Point Hope Shipyard, Ocean Cement and City workers. The pole was replaced in its original iron base, which had been removed and refurbished at Point Hope Shipyard. The only change to the support was the addition of a three metre iron post on the back of the pole. The pole was bolted to the post.

Vern Point estimated he had spent almost 800 hours on the pole during the previous six months. He had only worked on small totems before. “It’s been an education,” he said. “This is staggering because of the size.” Point noted the pole was originally dedicated to First Nations veterans and it was raised again just as the HMCS Vancouver sailed from Victoria on its way to the Arabian Sea. (Times Colonist, Oct. 30, 2001, C 1)

The pole was dedicated Saturday, November 3. Rear-Adm. Jamie Fraser, commander of Maritime Forces Pacific attended, as well as City officials and members of the public. Tony McCormick told the crowd he stopped counting when 7,000 hours of restoration work had been logged. 500 board feet of new cedar and 55 gallons of paint [were] used. Leslie McGarry, director for the Victoria Native Friendship Centre said, “It’s amazing how this project has united so many people together.” (Times Colonist, November 4, 2001, C 1)

Recommendation to remove pines and pavilion from Beacon Hill

In a paper dated January 15, 2001, botanist Dr. T. Christopher Brayshaw recommended that “planted exotic trees (mostly Austrian Pines) should be removed from Beacon Hill.” Over 115 exotic pines block views and threaten the survival of native flowering plants with dense shade and carpets of needles. Brayshaw wrote:

One of the more insidious threats to the beauty of Beacon Hill is the obsession of the City of Victoria with planting open spaces up with Austrian Pines (Pinus nigra). 115 or more of these pines have been planted on Beacon Hill since I came here in 1967. (T.C. Brayshaw, “The State of the Wild Plant Communities of Beacon Hill Park,” January 15, 2001, p. 5-9 and Figure 5)

Brayshaw was willing to leave in place “the shelter belts protecting the soccer fields, the zoo and adjacent parking lot, and the original windbreak along the eastern ridge of Beacon Hill.” He included a map marking which pines should be removed.

Checker's Pavilion atop Beacon Hill

Dr. Brayshaw recommended the Checker’s Pavilion be removed from the top of Beacon Hill, “together with its surrounding Mugo pine thicket.”

When picnic tables were placed on the north slope of the hill, Dr. Brayshaw noted, it increased trampling of rare and threatened native species to and around the table. He stated: “Picnic tables may be placed on the summit...but should not be placed on the slopes, where many rare or threatened plant species are found.”

Brayshaw described another exotic blight on the landscape, English Elm (Ulmus procera), also planted by the Parks Department:

This tree, which is tolerant of salt spray blowing off the sea, can spread by a dense growth of root suckers. Starting at the south end of Douglas Street about 1970, this tree has spread along the slopes in both directions. It’s abundant suckers generate thickets so dense that almost nothing else will grow under them. The eastern leading fringe of this invasion has now reached Finlayson Point...The eventual effect of this invasion will be a belt of elm forest occupying this slope and the closing off of the view of the sea from the Park behind it. (Brayshaw, p. 12)

Scots celebrate at Burns Monument

The Victoria Joint Scottish Council held a memorial at the Burns statue in Beacon Hill Park in January. Each year, more than a dozen local Scottish groups trek to the statue to honour poet Robbie Burns. The Gaelic Choir provided entertainment. The group moved to the “kirk” (church) afterward for tea and a concert. (Times Colonist, January 25, 2001, C 1)

Bike paths proposed through Park

City Council agreed to study the construction of bicycle paths through the Park for students riding to South Park School (located at the northwest corner of the Park). “There is already an informal series of pathways through the Park where the little kids have trampled foliage into the ground,” Coun. Rob Fleming said. (Times Colonist, March 9, 2001, B 2)

In July the issue of bikes off roadways in the Park was unresolved. A paragraph in the Friends Newsletter stated:

More and more bikes ride cross the meadow, grass, pathways and rocky ridges. The public needs to know that bikes are vehicles that abide by the same rules as motor vehicles. However, more and more motor vehicles are also parking on grass and driving off the roads. (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, July, 2001, p. 8)

In an article titled “Bikes in the Park,” Cornelia Lange pointed out “Currently there are no signs telling cyclists where they can ride their bikes in the Park, which must happen before enforcement” is possible. Joe Daly, Manager, Park Design and Development, said signs posted with “Statements of Conduct” were planned in areas of the Park. (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, October, 2001, p. 2) [There were no signs posted in the Park by the end of 2004.]

Park rock garden praised

View of Rock & Alpine Garden

On the 80th anniversary of the Vancouver Island Rock and Alpine Garden Society, columnist Grania Litwin praised the small Beacon Hill Park rock garden north of Goodacre Lake and a few feet west of Arbutus Way. Members of the Society planted the garden in 1967.

Steps in the Rock & Alpine Garden

They have met in Saturday morning work sessions ever since to maintain it. Park staff handles watering and path maintenance. Margaret Jeal, a volunteer gardener at the site for two years, said the garden was “particularly exquisite” in March. Volunteers claimed there were over 200 different alpine plants, the same number Park Administrator W. H. Warren stated in 1967. (Times Colonist, March 29, 2001, D 10)

Wading pool closed due to water shortage

Parks Manager Yvan Caron told City Council that closing the Beacon Hill Park wading pool and spray pool during the summer of 2001 would save 1.5 million gallons. In April, Stage Three watering restrictions were already in force in the Capital Regional District, the earliest date on record. It was possible that Stage Four--an unprecedented complete ban on outdoor watering--could be reached. In an effort to reduce water use and set a good example, City Council also considered reducing the number of hanging baskets. Caron said: “There are about 1,000 hanging baskets and they consume about two gallons of water per day. The consumption amounts to about 200,000 gallons during the summer.” Mayor Alan Lowe countered: “Hanging baskets are a product that we showcase and 60,000 gallons of water that would be saved is not much.” Caron planned to save water by restricting the number flower beds in Beacon Hill Park to raised beds and planters which could be hand-watered. (Times Colonist, April 6, 2001, B 1)

Tenth Annual Camas Day

Helen Oldershaw, Chairperson of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, invited the public to attend the Tenth Annual Camas Day held in Beacon Hill Park on Sunday, April 22.

The Friends and the Victoria Natural History Society co-host the annual event to celebrate the Garry Oak habitat. Expert leaders offering their expertise year after year to lead outstanding walks include Tom Gillespie (birds), Dr. Chris Brayshaw and Dr. Adolf Ceska (native plants), and Dr. Grant Keddie (archaeology).

A special feature in 2001 were two Camas Roast Walks led by Cheryl Bruce of the Songhees Nation. She would explain the importance of camas in the traditional diet. (Times Colonist, April 20, 2001, B 9)

There was never a Park tearoom

Columnist and radio personality Joe Easingwood wrote: “ would make sense to reestablish a tearoom in Beacon Hill Park...Oldtimers tell me there once was one upon Beacon Hill itself, not unlike the popular tea room at Willows Park in Oak Bay.” (Times Colonist, May 27, 2001, p. A 9)

There has never been a tearoom or restaurant on Beacon Hill or anywhere in Beacon Hill Park. Proposals to build a tearoom or restaurant, however, have appeared nonstop. Since 1946, there have been at least 13 proposals seriously discussed by City Council and the community.

No Great Canadian Picnic

A Times Colonist editorial called the demise of the Great Canadian Picnic “an unnecessary shame.” The Picnic began in 1991 and had been held in Beacon Hill Park for ten years. The writer said some people approved of events in the Park that drew large crowds, made noise and had commercial advertising, while “Others think the Park should be a quiet sanctuary for nature-lovers and nothing else.” The editorial said Council canceled new uses of the Park and “put current activities in doubt.” The editorial concluded that “doubt” was the cause for cancellation and Council was to blame. (Times Colonist, May 5, 2001, A 12)

Bob LeQuesne, key organizer of the Picnic, gave three reasons for the cancellation: “Reduced federal funding, the increasing challenge of finding volunteers and the fact that a long-range management plan for Beacon Hill Park is taking place were among reasons cited.” (Times Colonist, June 23, 2001, A 3)

Three other major annual events--Run for the Cure, Times Colonist 10K Run, and Luminara--were held in the Park as usual in 2001.

Second Annual Luminara Victoria

Luminara wheelchair lantern

The “Luminara Victoria Lantern Festival” grew in scope the second year. Reporter Susan Down described it “sprawling further across Beacon Hill Park and including more than 30 elaborate paper lantern installations from both professional artists and community groups.” After sunset at 9 p.m. on July 21, those installations--including the wheelchair lantern, fire lantern and tall figure shown here--were aglow. Other outstanding installations included a giraffe, a rhinoceros and a Buddha. Hand-made lanterns of all shapes were carried by participants. Producer Alice Bacon said Luminara was most often described as “magical.” She added: “People were blown away by the ingenuity of the displays.”

In addition to the light show provided by candle-lit lanterns, 25 performing groups were stationed around the Park centre. The photo below shows the Clover Point Drifters, a popular local bluegrass band. Among other performers were the Dixieland Express, Hayabola (with a digeridoo), Julio Cabrera, the Island Thyme Morris Dancers and Nyenyedzi.

Clover Point Drifters

Bacon said Luminara was a participatory event: "People feel ownership. They feel part of it.” Terry Loeppky added, “It’s like bringing a dish to a potluck dinner.” Twenty lantern-making workshops were held for the public leading up to Luminara 2001. Lanterns are made of bamboo frames covered with tissue paper. A glue coating provides a taut, translucency and has fire-retardant qualities.

With candles lighting up countless tissue paper lanterns, the entire area used for Luminara was watered in advance. Two fire trucks and crews as well as trained volunteers were present. Buckets of water were stationed at each installation. Bacon said, “We’re asking people to come and go via the paved roadways and not cut across dry fields.” (Times Colonist, July 19, 2001, D 6)

Three women--producer Bacon, installation manager Jeani Reynolds and performance co-ordinator Tracy Summers--set a gold standard for event organization in Beacon Hill Park. There were no commercial signs or banners in the Park and no sales; those were positioned on nearby St. Ann’s Academy grounds prior to the evening’s event.

Damage to natural areas was reduced by funneling crowds into the central developed areas and onto existing asphalt paths and roadways. Decorative signs and art works were hung on Park trees with string or rope, never nailed. Cleanup was astonishing: when walking through the Park at first light the next morning, all traces of the event were gone, including signs, buckets, tables, markers, installations and garbage.

Promoting the health of Garry oak meadows

A letter to the Times Colonist from M.D. Meagher, of the Garry Oak Meadow Preservation Society, detailed the groups efforts to enhance the health of Garry oak habitats. The group supported the work of the Garry oak Ecosystem Recovery Plan and the Management Plan for Beacon Hill Park.

[The Society campaigns for] by-laws and practices to maintain and restore fully-functioning Garry oak meadows, not just preserve the trees. This effort is toward providing habitat for about 100 species associated with Garry oak that are ranked Endangered or Threatened by international criteria.

Meagher noted “research into fire as a management tool in Garry oak meadow restoration” was being done by a Ph.D candidate at the University of Victoria on Capital Regional District and National Defence lands. Though fire is an important aspect of restoration, the Society does not “recommend volunteer conflagrations,” because fire can have “highly-variable results” and requires worker training. (Times Colonist, July 26, 2001, A 13)

Rare native plant species disappear

Golden Paintbrush Satin Flower

Of thirty-three native plant species judged to be rare in Beacon Hill Park by Dr. Robert T. Ogilvie in 1990, fourteen were no longer found in 2001. According to botanist Dr. T. Christopher Brayshaw, almost half of the rare plants had been lost in just ten years. Among lost species was Golden Paintbrush (Castilleya levisecta), shown in the photo on the left, now found in only a few other localities in Canada. Dr. Brayshaw reported that the Satin Flower (Sisyrinchium douglasii), shown on the right, was reduced to “perhaps twenty individuals.”

Prairie Violet

Other rare plant species, such as the Prairie Violet (Viola praemorsa) on the right, were reduced to one or two plants in the entire Park. Some rare plants, now missing entirely in Beacon Hill Park, may still be found on Holland Point.

Dr. Brayshaw says people are the cause of native plant losses: “In ever increasing numbers, we impact the natural communities with an unprecedented intensity.” The human impact is twofold. The trampling of crowds crush the plants directly, even when dormant. A less recognized but more insidious and cumulative negative effect of trampling is soil compaction:

[Soil compaction] changes the soil’s porosity and its ability to drain efficiently and to allow oxygen to diffuse through it to reach buried roots. Plants starved of oxygen for their roots die of suffocation during the Winter. The first effect we see will be the failure of many plants to reappear and flower as expected in the Spring. This deradation is insidious and cumulative; and may go unnoticed for years. (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, July, 2001, p. 1)

Brayshaw concluded any event attracting “large crowds onto the native grassland can only accelerate the rate of degradation.”

Park staffs have planted Narcissu, Crocus, English Bluebell and Grape Hyacinth in the Garry oak meadows for decades, at the expense of native Camas, Fawn Lily and Satin Flower. “Deliberate planting of exotic species in the natural communities in Beacon Hill Park has led to the replacement of native flowering plants with foreign species,” Brayshaw explained. A better choice would be to plant exotic species only in ornamental areas.

Park staffs also planted Austrian Pine and English Elm, which form dense canopies, making it impossible for native wildflowers to survive. Native grasses have been replaced by “tough and aggressive pasture grasses of European origin.” Dr. Brayshaw asked: “How can we save what little is left for those who will come after us?” (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, July, 2001, p. 2)

Park Maintenance: lake pumps, bandshell, pathways

Asst. Supervisor Al Cunningham stated the large recirculating pump operating the Goodacre Lake-Fountain Lake recirculating water system located on Blair Island was replaced in 2001 along with a new pickup line and filter box. The pump was first installed in 1973 to carry water from Goodacre up 650 feet to Fountain Lake, where it shoots up out of the fountain before returning in a stream to Goodacre. Prior to that, city water was purchased at about $1500 a year to feed a one way stream. Cunningham also reported the Cameron Bandshell was repainted and re-roofed. (Email, July 3, 2003)

Joe Daly, Manager, Park Design and Development, invited comment from the Friends of Beacon Hill Park in July on a new section of pathway along Dallas Road between Clover Point and Cook Street. Daly wrote the crushed basalt used was “permeable, durable and cost effective” and the path surface would be firm enough for wheelchairs. He said the same material was planned for the pathway from Cook Street to Holland Point. Before completing that portion of the walkway, the City was inviting “input from groups who represent users of the walk.” (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, July, 2001, p. 8)

Police horses called “big brown magnets”

City of Victoria Police horses Domi, a Polish Trakehner gelding, and Jet, an Appaloosa/quarter horse cross, were like “big brown magnets” to the public, according to Victoria Police Constable Mark Buerfiend. Even people being arrested want to pat them. Each horse wears a police badge on his breast collar.

The horses were stabled in the Beacon Hill Park barn from May to October, 2001, and moved to private stables the rest of the year. The horses patrol in the Park, along Dallas Road and downtown. In order for them to be effective in crowd control, the horses must be trained to stay calm in the midst of honking cars, flashing lights and blaring sirens. (Times Colonist, September 8, 2001, C 3)

Jet and Domi’s year-round training included participation in the annual Pacific Northwest Mounted competition with Seattle, Portland and Vancouver Police mounted squads. The competition created situations a mounted officer might face in real life. In 2000, challenges included opening and closing a gate, putting a ticket on a car window without dismounting and riding through a zig zag pattern and over fallen logs. Some obstacles were noisy and scary for the horses: a police vehicle with lights flashing and sirens blaring, a load of tin-cans draped over the horse’s withers. As well, horse and rider had to enter a darkened warehouse through a regular-size doorway and back out. (Times Colonist, January 20, 2001, C 3)

The Beacon Hill Park horse patrol began in 1984. The Police barn was constructed behind the Children’s Petting Zoo in 1990; horses were stabled there part of each year through 2001. Horse patrols were canceled in 2002.

Mowing disasters

Restoration plots in the Northwest Ridge area were mowed for the second year in a row in 2001. Lost were native plants nurtured by the Friends of Beacon Hill Park near the crosswalk area of Southgate since Fall, 2000 as well as Garry oak saplings planted by Park staff. The City worker driving the mower was unaware of the Restoration Project.

The Friends Newsletter stated:

Mis-communications with replacement mowers caused these treasurers to be mowed under...Mowers move around the city boulevards and parks, so communication is essential when trying to protect vulnerable areas in Beacon Hill Park.

Success in our natural areas depends on the summer time mowers. Unfortunately, mowing tall grass is deemed necessary to reduce fire hazard in an area susceptible to fires. Friends [of Beacon Hill Park Society] worked with Park staff to mow mid July in order that meadow wildflowers can seed.” (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, October, 2001, p. 3)

Unfortunately, the communication problem continued. In July, 2003, native species carefully watered and tended by the Friends were again mowed flat. When the restoration area was replanted yet again in early spring, it was decided to protect the plants with fencing and the Garry oak seedlings with white guards.

Cricket tournament includes illegal beer sales

Cricket pitch

The Cricket clubhouse in Beacon Hill Park was allowed to sell beer again during a 2001 tournament. All sales are legally prohibited in the Park; other sports and community events abide by this rule. In September, as teams competed for the Tomlin Cup B. C. cricket final, cricket players drinking beer pretended they were drinking “tea.” Victoria and District Cricket Association president Allan Carter laughed as he explained this discreet subterfuge: “We don’t say what the beverages are--we just tell people it’s all tea.” North Shore captain Iain Dixon explained that cricket was a social sport: “Everybody meets in the bar afterwards...” (Times Colonist, September 23, 2001, B 7)

The Cricket club must apply for a permit to sell beer outside of the clubhouse during tournaments. Out of sight, beer sales continue the rest of the year inside the clubhouse.

Special privileges have been the rule for cricketers since the 1800's. In 1971, when Council enacted a by-law requiring cricketers to stop parking on and damaging Park grass, cricket supporters forced Council to back down. The result was that cricket spectators could park on grass but no other Park visitor was allowed to do so. When the first private cricket clubhouse was destroyed by fire, City Council allowed a new two-story clubhouse twice the size of the original to be erected in 1979, despite the fact that private areas in the Park are illegal.

(See 2002, when the City issued the cricket club a permit for a “beer garden,” ignoring their own brand new guidelines on commercialism.)

Woman found unconscious in the Park, dies

A 22 year-old woman found unconscious in the Park in December died in hospital, possibly from hypothermia. It is unknown how the woman got to the Park. A man walking his dog about 7:30 a.m. noticed the woman sleeping in the Park but did not realize there was a problem or call police. At 12:55 p.m. police received an emergency call reporting a young woman lying near the flagpole who seemed in distress. (Times Colonist, December 11, 2001, B 1) Police were investigating to determine how long the woman was in the Park and how she got there. (Times Colonist, December 12, 2001, B 1) [In this history, eleven deaths were reported in the Park since 1915. However, this number, based entirely on newspaper reports, is not complete.]


Great Blue Heron colony

Active nests in the Great Blue Heron colony in Park trees at Douglas Street and Avalon numbered 90 in 2002, the highest number on record. However, the success rate was low. Only 30 chicks fledged in 2002, compared to 60 in 2001 when there were 65 active nests. (Ross Vennesland, Great Blue Heron Breeding Colony Database, Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management)

There are many causes of heron chick deaths besides Eagle predation, which was discussed in 2001. Park gardener Margaret Marsden reported she collected 30 dead heron chicks from under nest trees in 2002. Flimsy nests in constantly moving tall treetops are dangerous places to live; nests become increasingly crowded as chicks grow. Chicks perching on wobbly branches outside the nest lose their balance. They rush to meet returning parents, jostling siblings in the process. Gusts of wind catch flapping juveniles by surprise.

Dead chicks on the ground present the only opportunity Park visitors have to examine young birds up close. Even at three or four weeks old, beaks and legs appear incredibly large. Usually chicks are dead on impact; those who do survive the fall will starve because heron parents do not feed chicks out of the nest. One exception was the semi-tame Heron called “Henry” who was uninjured when he fell in the early 1990's and was fed by apartment dwellers.

Duckling meal

On May 14, 2002, N. Ringuette observed Henry catch a live duckling on the fly. Henry was at his usual location next to the green bench on the north side of Goodacre Lake near Douglas Street but was not intent on handouts. He was keenly watching eight Mallard ducklings swimming with their mother. When one duckling ventured alone to the centre of the lake, Henry took off. Flying low he grabbed it off the surface of the water in his bill and continued flying to the opposite shore with the mother Mallard giving chase. Henry is often seen walking slowly along the edge of the Lake stalking juicy ducklings. This time he was successful. In addition to fish, Herons consume almost any available live prey, including voles, frogs and chicks. The photo shows a Heron fly with a duckling in its bill.

Round Table report on commercialism

“Achieving Peace in the Park: A Strategy to Restrict and Control Commercialism in Beacon Hill Park, Final Report” was endorsed by City Council in February, 2002. The report, part of the ongoing process to establish a “management plan” for the Park, aimed to end controversy by setting guidelines for “appropriate” commercialism.

Commercialism was completely prohibited in the Park according to the Park Trust and two B. C. Supreme Court decisions. Beacon Hill Park was legally defined as a “nature park and ornamental pleasure ground with playing fields.” No sales, admission charges or advertising were permitted.

The Friends of Beacon Hill Park, the Beacon Hill Park Rescue Coalition, individuals such as Betty Gibbens, and others, wanted the City to obey the law.

Those who did not want to comply with the legal description and legal restrictions wrote more flexible guidelines into the 2002 report. The report stated:

...commercial activity that is incidental to otherwise appropriate park use, and that meets stringent criteria, may be permitted... ...not all commercial activities and special events are inappropriate when the impacts of the activity or event on park values are considered objectively. This suggests the need for flexibility in the decision making process... (Final Report, Achieving Peace in the Park--A strategy to Restrict and Control Commercialism in Beacon Hill Park, February, 2002, p. 7)

Critics said the report was a sellout. Not surprisingly, they did not accept the controversy was over and the matter settled. “They’re actually going to promote commercial activities. This is just refueling the debate,” said Fairfield resident Mary Doody, a Round Table participant.

Mayor Alan Lowe defended the report, saying it provided a framework to guide management decisions. “We have to look at all sectors of the community and different people have different definitions of what is commercialism. What we have to look at is appropriateness.” Lowe said he wasn’t for all kinds of commercialism; for example, he agreed building a teahouse in the Park was against “the spirit of the Trust.”

Joe Daly, Manager of Design and Development, said the new guidelines would ensure the Park continued to be “a quiet oasis.” He said, “I doubt there will be any park in North America with greater controls over commercialism.” He suggested those in favour of strict legal restrictions might exclude a pay phone located near the central washrooms in the Park because the phone was a “commercial operation.”

Jacqueline Goldman, representing the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, dismissed the pay phone example, saying a telephone was more accurately described as a public utility. She said, “We just don’t believe you can use the Park to make money.” (Times Colonist, February 22, 2002, B 1 & B 2)

An editorial suggested “moderation in all things,” and supported some commercialism, saying “We’re not living in 1883 any more...” A “middle ground” was suggested:

Events entirely aimed at monetary gain don’t belong there. Events that enhance our community’s quality of life should be allowed, even if some money does change hands. (Times Colonist, February 24, 2002, A 10)

Park defender Betty Gibbens responded to the editorial. She wrote that City Council should stop allowing permits for inappropriate activities to be issued:

Money making activities blemish the Park’s character and ought to be held elsewhere...To achieve peace in the Park, everyone, including governments, special interest groups, merchants, sponsors and participants, should abide by the well-reasoned court decision [of B. C. Supreme Court Justice Dean Wilson]. (Times Colonist, March 9, 2002, A 13)

The facilitator of the “consensus-building” meetings, Craig Darling, expected all Round Table participants to acquiesce to the conclusions of the majority. Pressure was applied to conform in the interest of harmony and cooperation. Two did not. After fifty hours of meetings, the report was issued over the signatures of only six of the eight “sector” participants. Two blank signature lines can be seen on the page titled “Sector Endorsement of Round Table Final Report, January, 2002." Helen Oldershaw, representing the “Environment Sector,” and Cornelia Lange, for the “Community Sector,” did not support the Report conclusions.

The six who signed specifically recommended disregarding past legal rulings in this statement:

Rather than pursuing a political solution or deferring to the Courts, the members of the Beacon Hill Round Table agreed to adopt a collaborative, problem-solving approach to address commercialism in the park, seeking an agreement in the best interests of the park rather than in the self-interest of park users... (p. 2)

Those who agreed to allow some commercialization in the Park were positively described in the report as exhibiting “flexibility,” “objectivity” and a more “sophisticated” approach while those who were against commercialism were acting out of “self-interest.”

Facilitator Craig Darling wrote City Council explaining he made every “effort to accommodate” the two non-signers. His goal of a “consensus outcome” thwarted, he concluded: “Evidently, in the minds of some individuals, the benefits of reaching agreement were outweighed by the perceived costs.” Darling’s letter was featured prominently on the first two pages of the report. There was no minority report or rebuttal included in the City publication.

Council violates new guidelines, allows cricket club to sell beer

Cricket Clubhouse

Council accepted the report, Achieving Peace in the Park--A strategy to Restrict and Control Commercialism in Beacon Hill Park in February, 2002. Included in the report was a set of guidelines for “appropriate” use of the Park which were to end debate and achieve “peace.”

The first test of the new guidelines was an application from the cricket club for a permit to sell beer in a “beer garden” at the “International Six-a-Side Cricket Festival” to be held in the Park in August. They also planned to display company advertising, sell cricket equipment, raffle tickets and food. Following the new guidelines on commercialism, Park staff concluded the proposed sales were not appropriate and the permit should be denied.

Joe Daly, Manager of Design and Development, told City Council in June that the cricket club application did not fit the guidelines because “Money is changing hands.”

Coun. David McLean dismissed that conclusion. He said all proceeds--beer, food, raffle and equipment sales and player registration fees--went into funding the tournament, so the sales were not commercialism. His definition was: “Commercialism is a for-profit kind of thing.”

Daly pointed out a second conflict with the new guidelines for “appropriate” Park use: the beer garden would be roped off and anyone under the age of 19 was thus prevented from entering an area of the public park. “You’re taking a piece of the Park and saying it’s not open for anybody to hang out.” He suggested the beer garden could be set up outside Park boundaries instead. McLean dismissed that point as well, saying there are many restricted areas of the Park. Roping off the beer garden to restrict access was “no different than I can’t go into the women’s washroom in Beacon Hill Park.”

City Council overruled the staff. They agreed that the beer garden and other sales could go ahead. Coun. David McLean said: “There’s a historic entitlement. It’s a great community event.”

Speaking for the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, Jacqueline Goldman said the report guidelines were clear in what is appropriate use and what is prohibited: “You don’t sell things and you don’t rope off the public.” (Times Colonist, June 29, 2002, p. B 1)

The “Victoria International Six-a-Side Cricket Festival” was held August 2-6, 2002. In a report to the Parks Department following the event, the cricket club described “The Beacon Hill Tent Pavilion” as “a bar set up inside the tent which sold alcoholic drinks and tickets for events...There was no advertising although the beer taps contained the name of individual companies (a usual practice)...” Beverage sales totaled $4,978.21, more revenue than team fees and ticket sales combined. (“Report to the City of Victoria Parks Department,” Park files)

The Park Use section of the Beacon Hill Park Annual Report 2002 described the “Purpose of the event” as “Cricket tournament and beer garden; fund-raiser for Victoria and District Cricket Club.” 200 participants were listed. “Commercial elements” were “Liquor, food and equipment sales; raffles; registration fees; sponsor signs.” In the last column:

Comments: approved by Council; controversy prior to event; raises questions regarding Lease agreement with the City; impact on parking in the area; event required extra staff time and services; no complaints following event. Beacon Hill Park Annual Report 2002, p. 7)

Though the Annual Report stated there were no complaints after the beer garden event, Mayor and Council did receive an official letter of complaint dated September 11, 2003, “RE license for beer garden allowed August 2002.” The letter was sent by “Solicitors to the Beacon Hill Park Rescue Coalition Society,” and signed by Richard S. Margetts, of the firm Johns, Southward, Glazier, Walton and Margetts, Barristers, Solicitors. The letter pointed out their clients were disappointed when Council issued the permit for the beer garden, disregarding new guidelines:

It is unfortunate that the City, having embarked upon a process of consultation with all stakeholders, with a view to an orderly application of the principles of the Trust, has now chosen to ignore the process and the recommendations of staff. (Park files)

Bald eagle nest success

Eagle nest

A pair of Bald Eagles successfully reared two young in the nest by the old aviary next to Goodacre Lake in 2002. The best view of the nest was from a vantage point north of Goodacre Lake, just east of the Stone Bridge. Adults could be seen bringing prey in their talons to the nest, then ripping it up to feed their young. When the young Eagles grew larger, they perched on the edge of the nest, like the young Eagle in the photo. Later still, they moved further out on the branch and then to adjacent branches.

Vigilant visitors walking on Bridge Way often found debris from Eagle meals on the ground under the tree and on the roadway, including Mallard and gull feathers and discarded heron chick legs. A bullhead (fish) skeleton and one half of a small snake were discovered one week. Eagles regurgitate pellets containing indigestible feathers, fur and bones; they too can be found under the nest.

Cooper’s Hawks nests

There were two successful hawk nests in the Park in 2002, one by the wading pool at Douglas Street and Circle Drive and one behind the central washrooms in an Arbutus tree. Andy Stewart banded chicks in both. On April 27, the author watched a hawk quickly swoop down and grab a duckling off Fountain Lake, unnoticed by the Mallard mother.

There was a danger the Cooper’s Hawks nesting by the wading pool would abandon their nest due to extreme human disturbance on April 28. Over 14,000 people gathered a few feet away at the Douglas Street all-weather field for the Times Colonist 10K Run. Total runners, adults and children, was 8,341 with at least 6,000 spectators. (Times Colonist, April 29, 2002, A 1) Loudspeakers were set at a very high volume; there was loud music and announcements, people shouting. Happily, the Hawks persevered despite the maximum imaginable disturbance. The Eagles had a lower degree of disturbance: runners passed under their nest, where a band played.

Other bird species

Many other bird species nest in Beacon Hill Park in addition to the three birds discussed frequently in this history (Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles and Cooper’s Hawks). Crows, Spotted Towhees, and Sparrows nests are hard to find, but two small birds nest right in the open, often at a convenient height to be observed, and they allow observers to stand very close.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Nuthatch nest hole

One of the most interesting birds seen and heard year-round in the Park is the Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis). Small and stubby, these birds have bluish backs, short tails, pale orange bellies and a white eyebrow line with a black cap above. They go headfirst down trees searching for insects, as in the photo on the left. Nuthatches obligingly give a constant “beep beep” call, which helps people locate them.

There were at least two Nuthatch nests in the Park in 2002, one near Circle Drive opposite the wading pool, and the one shown here behind the Children’s Petting Zoo. A unique feature of Nuthatch nest-holes is the pitch they smear around the entrance, apparently to deter predators. A small waterfall of pitch can be seen below the nest hole on the right.

Bushtit at the nest

Very tiny grey birds called Bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus ) build marvelous woven hanging nests of moss, hair, plant down, lichens, spider silk and feathers. Many people think Bushtit nests look like gray socks. The entrance is a hole near the top of the gourd-shaped nest, as seen in this photo. Bushtits ignore humans standing quite close while they construct the nest and hurry in and out bringing insects to feed their young. The tiny bird in this photo is bringing an insect in its bill to feed nestlings. Observers can see adults emerging from the nest with something white in their bills. These are white fecal sacs, neat little packages produced by the nestlings, which the parents drop a distance away to keep the interior of the nest clean.

At least six Bushtit nests were constructed in the Park in 2002; all but one were destroyed. High winds, a powerful Park sprinkler and poor construction (one nest included a heavy component of kleenex) were some of the causes.

Mallard mother and ducklings

Wigeons, Hooded Merganzers and Scaups visit the Park during the winter but fly elsewhere to nest, but Mallards are reliable and prolific Park nesters. Ducklings delight Park visitors all summer. There are often three or four Mallard families on Goodacre Lake plus one or two families on Fountain Lake. Ducklings can be seen four to five months of the year. In 2002, the first Mallard ducklings on Goodacre Lake were reported on April 27; the last brood appeared in August. Cooper’s Hawks, Herons, Gulls, Crows and raccoons take a toll, but the usual Mallard clutch is large--8 to 10 eggs. The largest number of ducklings with one mother recorded on Goodacre Lake was an astounding 26 in 1946.

Third Annual Luminara Lantern Festival

Luminara lanterns in Circle Garden

The “Luminara Community Lantern Festival” was scheduled for the last Saturday in July. From 1 - 8 p.m., there were children’s activites at St. Ann’s Academy. At dusk, about 8:10 p.m., people proceeded to Beacon Hill Park. Reporter Susan Down described impressive lantern installations: an Eiffel Tower, pyramids, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, giant goldfish, a huge heron and a winged horse. Performers ranged from belly dancers, to jazz, bluegrass, medieval music, drums and acrobats. There were stilt-walkers and firedancers.

To handle the crowd of 15,000, Luminara expanded in 2002 to the cricket field, where the Discovery Dance group performed graceful maneuvers in the air while strapped to a long metal booms.

“People now have an understanding of the event,” producer Alice Bacon explained. “People come back because of the beauty of the park combined with the lantern lights.”

People were encouraged to make their own lanterns in fifty workshops held prior to the event. Sharon Naubert, who was constructing a school of giant goldfish with her daughter, said: “The thing I love best is that it’s all gone by midnight without a scrap of paper left.” (Times Colonist, July 25, 2002, D 7) Luminara was an extremely well organized event for the third year in a row.

A letter to the editor after the event described Luminara as “relaxed revelry.” Terry Loeppky said the mix of people was wonderful, “All of us gathering together creating mysterious beauty, and celebrating community for a few brief hours.” She thought Luminara had “come of age” in 2002 and was amazed there was no trace of the event on Sunday morning. (Times Colonist, July 31, 2002, A 9)

Mowing later benefits native plants

Helen Oldershaw, Chair of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, noted the “continuing degradation” of Beacon Hill Park meadows. Some of the damage continued to be the result of Park staff mowing. Oldershaw recalled “a clear-out of blackberry and broom in the western slope of Beacon Hill, during which Garry oak seedlings and Rein Orchids were inadvertently mowed in the late summer of 1989.”

Oldershaw quotes University of British Columbia Department of Plant Sciences professor Dr. Brian Holl’s explanation of how mowing benefits exotic species while adversely affecting native species:

Some plant species respond positively to mowing; this is particularly true of cultivated turfgrass species. More regular mowing or mowing which provides these species with a competitive advantage, will increase their contribution to the overall populations, changing the botanical nature of the meadow over time.

Since many of the [native] species can flower from spring into the summer months, early mowing will decrease the seed reproduction potential of these plants. (“Lament for the Meadow,” Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, May, 2002 p. 4)

Police horse patrol ended

In May, the Victoria Police horse patrol was canceled and the horses were moved out of the barn behind the petting zoo. The reason for the cut was a Police budget shortfall of $400,000. The operating cost of the six-month mounted patrol was $30,000 to $40,000, including year-round care of the horses. The staffing costs were closer to $100,000. Police Chief Paul Battershill said:

They perform a good function in the core. They’re liked by tourists and they add a positive police presence. I think they have a significant value especially in crowd control. I feel really bad about it because we have officers who have developed a skill set in riding and they might lose that.”

Former Deputy Chief John Lane said the horses were much more than a tourist attraction. The horse patrol was very effective in major events because the officers were above the crowd and could see well. The horses were used during the “Commonwealth Games, Swiftsure, Canada Day activities, the Millennium Celebrations, the Symphony Splash” and the February 23 anti-government protest which drew 20,000 people to the Legislature. He said horses can move a crowd well: “People seldom argue. They just get out of the way.” Lane said the first horse policed only Beacon Hill Park: “It was definitely PR in the park, but it grew from that to be a very efficient operating tool...”

Coun. David McLean was unhappy to hear the two-horse police patrol was canceled with no “heads-up” to Council first. (Times Colonist, May 1, May 16, May 18, 2002, C 1, C 2)

Betty Gibbens correctly pointed out in a letter to the Mike Leskiw, Parks Manager, that allowing the operators of the Children’s Farm to use the police horse barn was in effect, “an extension of their enterprise.” According to their agreement with the City, the Koenders were not allowed to expand their operation by adding a new building. Gibbens reminded the City that “neither the farm or the police horse barn is an appropriate use” and “do not contribute to its true character, described in the 1998 B.C. Supreme Court ruling as ‘a nature park with ornamental gardens and playing fields.’” (Gibbens, September 13, 2002, Park office files)

Kiwanis wading pool becomes a water spray facility

Wading Pool

After 77 years, the Kiwanis wading pool was shut down due to water contamination in June, 2002. Though no illnesses were reported, fecal coliform bacteria was present in the water. “It’s not safe to use the way it is now,” Mayor Alan Lowe said.

The pool was not used In 2001 because of water restrictions. Constructed in 1925, the pool always lacked a filtration system; it had been refilled periodically with 45,000 litres of fresh water. About $40,000 would be needed to build a filtration system. The City was considering a new spray park in another Park location. (Times Colonist, June 14, 2002, B 1)

Before the end of June, Council voted unanimously to spend up to $10,000 to install a spray fountain in the Kiwanis wading pool. Mike Leskiw, Parks Manager, said it should be ready in mid-July. He considered it a temporary solution while other Park plans are being reviewed. The pool would drain constantly, leaving no standing water. A timer system was planned; when children push a button, about 15 minutes of water would spray. The pool would also be repainted. (Times Colonist, June 29, 2002, B 2)

This July 4, 2004 photo shows the spray fountain being enjoyed two years after the “temporary” installation. Children and their parents often create a temporary wading pool by plugging round drain holes with pine cones. The cones are available nearby and just the right size.

New water spray facility proposed

“A new, themed water-spray park adjacent to the centrally-located children’s playground” was proposed, the Friends Newsletter reported, priced at an estimated $472,000. The Friends were concerned about “the loss of the picnic area, the resulting damage to the Garry oak and camas meadow, and the addition of more paved space in a park where green space is increasingly marginalized.” The Parks and Recreation Foundation of Victoria, a private organization, proposed the water park and claimed they had $125,000 toward the project; they stipulated it must be located in Beacon Hill Park. The article noted other neighbourhoods would like the facility. (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, December, 2002, p. 7)

The Beacon Hill Park Annual Report 2002, “Section Four: Work Program for 2003,” anticipated the removal of the Kiwanis wading pool and the construction of a new water spray facility would proceed in 2003. The report stated the water spray park had been approved in principle by Council in 2002. (p. 15)

[Neither the destruction of the wading pool or the building of the new spray facility had taken place as of December, 2004. Beginning in January, 2005, a Steering Committee will meet to discuss the design, location and feasibility of a water facility in the Park.]

Ladybugs for the Park

Ladybugs were released in the rose garden at Beacon Hill Park in July by Michelle Gorman, integrated pest management coordinator for the City, as part of an ongoing campaign to reduce the use of pesticides. The program was launched in 1992 in parks and public green spaces to cut down the use of chemicals. Gorman said that preventative techniques had resulted in a 97% reduction in the use of pesticides in Victoria parks. “Last year, I released 140,000 adult lady birds,” she said. Ladybugs eat aphids that feast on boulevard and park trees as well as roses. Gorman said weed infestations can be killed by hot water and infra-red techniques instead of using chemicals. (Times Colonist, July 9, 2002, B 2)

Snowbirds attracted over 30,000

The popular squadron of nine military jets called the Snowbirds attracted the largest crowds to the Park in both 2002 and 2003. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 spectators watched a spectacular show over Clover Point on August 7, 2002. Difficulties with traffic and parking problems included gridlock and damage from cars parking on Park grass.

In an effort to avoid those problems in 2003, nearby roads were closed three hours before the demonstration and people were encouraged to walk or bike. Over 30,000 watched a “33 minute air ballet” on July 30, 2003. (Times Colonist, June 13, B 1; July 30, B 1; July 31, 2003, A 1)

“Comments” on this event in the Beacon Hill Park Annual Report 2002 were: “partly sponsored by the City/ influx of large number of spectators caused congestion and traffic control problems in and outside of the park; future requests for nearby large events should include a plan for the park.” (Beacon Hill Park Annual Report 2002, p. 8)

Northwest Ridge Restoration Plants mowed yet again

Native plants first planted in the Northwest Ridge Restoration Project in February, 2000, were watered by the Friends of Beacon Hill Park until they were mowed by a Park machine. They were replanted and watered, only to be mowed again in 2001. (Helen Oldershaw, “Lament for the Meadow,” Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, May, 2002, p. 4)

In November, 2002, Garry oaks, Oregon grape, Snowberry, Nootka Rose and Fawn lilies were planted. A fence or boulders for protection was considered but rejected for aesthetic reasons. (Agnes Lynn, Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, April, 2003)

Alas, those plants were mowed as well. A year later, the Friends reported: “This past July, and for the third time in four years, the equipment operator for the city has mowed the native species planted on the north-west ridge.” In future, ugly or not, “all plants will be protected by white guards like the ones used to protect the Garry oak seedlings” nearby. (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, November, 2003)

Fall colour in the Park

Every year, from the beginning of October through November, visitors walking in any area of the Park can view some beautiful fall colours. The maple in the November 1, 2004 photo below is located next to the Emily Carr Bridge where the stream runs into Goodacre Lake, a few feet east of Douglas Street. Red maple leaves above a small waterfall make this spot a favorite of photographers.

Goodacre Lake nr. Emily Carr Bridge
Photo: N. Ringuette

In an article titled “Fall Colour in the Park,” Agnes Lynn described the walk upstream from the Emily Carr bridge:

A very pleasant walk is along the stream between Fountain Lake and Goodacre Lake. This area has been planted with many Japanese maples which are perfectly situated along the stream bed. The meandering pathway has to be one of the most pleasant diversions in the entire park.”

Traveling south on Cook Street, Lynn noted “hawthorn, red oaks and flowering cherry trees made beautiful contrasting colours.” Entering the Park from the north on Arbutus Way, several kinds of oak on the left in Mayor’s Grove provided “red, orange and bronze tones.” The Southeast Woods was the best place to see “butter yellow big-leaf maples.” Aspen and willow could be found in the beach shrub areas. “A large number of flowering cherry trees planted throughout the Park...produce a great range of colours.” Standing opposite the Children’s Petting Zoo are “6 or 8" sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) trees, which are “one of the most spectacular trees for fall colour.” (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, December, 2002, p. 1-2)

Beacon Hill Park Annual Report 2002

The Beacon Hill Park Annual Report 2002, dated January 29, 2003, was the first “Annual Report” published by the City since 1969, when outgoing Park Administrator W. H. Warren filed his last report. The 2002 Annual Report was written to satisfy one of the thirty-one goals set during the Round Table process. Goal #30 states: “Prepare an annual public report on park use and management impacts.” (Summary Report, p. 8) The report was organized into four sections.

1. Section One: Beacon Hill Park Management Plan

Progress made in 2002 in developing the Plan included the completion of the report on commercialism. Staff applied the “Appropriate Activity Assessment Framework” in the report to all large events in the Park. The City webpage on the Plan and the webpage for Beacon Hill Park was revised. Staff met with operators of the Children’s Farmyard in an effort to move toward the facility operating as a non-profit organization in 2003; the existing operating contract was renewed for one year. Natural Areas maps were being developed.

“Park staff met with representatives of the Victoria Lawn Bowling Club to discuss opportunities to increase public access to the club.” (p. 3)

[Recommendation #9 in the July 2001 BHP Management Plan Phase 1 was to: “Relax the membership requirements...and open up the facility to park uses.”

Vera Creelman, Victoria Lawn Bowling Club President wrote: “From Opening Day until June 30, we have had ‘open bowling’ at our Cub...There was no significant interest.” Only twelve people came; all but two were tourists. (“Report to Parks Board from Victoria Lawn Bowling Club, July 15, 2002, Park files)]

2. Section Two: Events in the Park

Eight pages listed events in the Park during 2002 in seven categories: “Events (over 50 participants and spectators) originating in the Park; Events (over 50 participants and spectators) passing through the Park; Events (less than 50 participants and spectators); Organized Sports; Weddings; Cameron Bandshell; Other.” (pp. 5-12)

“In 2002...there were 15 [large] events that originated or had set up in the Park and another 6 passed through.” (p. 4) [Runs and walks fit in this category, not Sporting Events.] A new application process was established for events in the Park. There were 23 permits issued for weddings.

Cameron Bandshell, was the venue for eight City Sponsored Concerts in summer, 2002, estimated attendance 2,800. Attendance at thirty Music Performance Trust Fund Concerts, six more concerts than 2001, was 7,010. The Naden Band Maritime Forces Pacific was the biggest draw with close to 2,000 listeners for three concerts. “CANUS, Belvedere Broadcasters and String of Pearls performances each drew over 500.” (p. 11)

Organized Sports: four cross-country runs using all-weather fields and surrounding meadows, with 300-1,000 participants per event; three ball diamonds, used 151 times; cricket field used 77 times; Field hockey, 17 uses; Rugby 47; Soccer used three fields for a total of 373 games (of those, Heywood was used only 45 times).

3. Section Three: Operation and Management of the Park

“Seven full time staff...[were] allocated to maintain Beacon Hill Park year round, with another 4-5 staff hired on a seasonal basis during the spring and summer.” (p. 13) However, the organizational chart on that page shows only five full time gardeners (one of the five runs a mower full time) plus three seasonal gardeners. One “labourer” is listed in 2002 and a second “regular seasonal labourer.”

[By contrast, in the 1960's, there twelve full time gardeners assigned to Beacon Hill Park, plus a Supervisor, a full time caretaker, and part time truck drivers and seasonal labourers. The same work done by twelve full time staff in the past is now expected of five. Use of the Park has not declined; it has increased with the population increase. Neither have public expectations declined or the City’s positive publicity about the Park. The City of Victoria’s website calls Beacon Hill Park “The crowning jewel in Victoria's park system” and “an oasis of both natural and landscaped beauty.” Budget cuts over the past years have kept the number of staff below the essential levels. It is not possible to maintain high standards and staff is under pressure. ]

Ten items were listed under “Significant Initiatives in 2002” (p. 14):

1. Wading Pool: “The Vancouver Island Health Authority required that the City of Victoria close the wading pool because of concerns about water quality. Council directed staff to install one water spray element in the existing wading pool basin as a temporary measure, pending development and approval of plans for a permanent water spray facility.”

2. Garry Oak Restoration: “Approximately 100 oak seedlings were planted at two sites on each side of Southgate Street. This restoration project was the final component of a larger project initiated by the Provincial Capital Commission to restore the area surrounding the former Academy of Music building.” [Both sides of Southgate are Beacon Hill Park land; the street, constructed in 1957 on Park land, isolated a section of the Park on the north side.]

3. Cricket Field: “An automated irrigation system was installed.”

4. Goodacre Lake: “The buildup of a deep layer of organic sediment at the bottom of Goodacre Lake has compromised the quality of the water. In an effort to improve water quality, the City has installed an air induction system to increase the supply of oxygen. In addition, the City has initiated a program of adding microbial stimulants to help digest the organic sediments.”

[In 2002, the City began a major biological restoration program to improve water quality in the Goodacre Lake system, which has algae blooms in the summer and a buildup of sediment on the bottom. On the City website, Paul LeComte, Asst. Supervisor, explained the steps undertaken to reduce high levels of phosphorus, nitrite and nitrate ammonia:

Three applications of Aquatron and waste and sludge (non-pathogenic microbes) reducers have already been added to the lakes along with a Microbial powder product called Calcoforce, which is a product from France derived purely from planktonic deposits and is 100 per cent soluble.....As part of the restoration program, two propeller aerator fountains and four underwater aeration diffusers will be installed in Goodacre Lake to improve oxygenation and keep some movement in the water which will help decrease the large algae blooms and sludge on the bottom of the lakes.

A green wooden box on McTavish Island contains a compressor and electrical hookups; there is a second power installation on Blair Island.]

5. Cameron Bandshell: Because of vandalism and overnight camping problems at the bandshell, “A metal screen was installed to control access to the stage area.”

6. “Blair Bridge” “...the City undertook repairs to this structure, including: moisture sealing the road surface, repointing the masonry and powerwashing.” [Unfortunately, heritage consultants informed the City in 2004 that the repointing was likely to have damaged the heritage structure. Staff was untrained in preservation techniques.]

7. Tree Removals: “Twenty-six False Cypress (Chamaecyparis sp) trees were removed from the area surrounding Goodacre Lake. These trees had become infected with a fungal root rot (Phytophthora sp).”

[A October, 2001 article by “Dr. Michelle Gorman, Integrated Pest Management Coordinator” presented more information on these cedars. She wrote the dying cedars were previously identified as Lawson Cypress, also known as Port Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniania), and were “infected with the disease Phytophthora lateralis.” Because the fungus spreads through water, trees in moist areas are most at risk. She suggested planting species more resistant to the fungus. (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Newsletter, October, 2001, p. )]

8. Parking Lot - Southeast Woods “The parking area on the west side of the Southeast Woods was closed to vehicle access.” [In 2003, the closure was made permanent and the pavement torn up.]

9. Dallas Road Waterfront Walk : “The existing waterfront walk connecting from Clover Point to Holland Point was removed and a new walk constructed. The project also included a consolidation of signs, measure to control unauthorized access to the cliff face and the installation of three drinking fountains.”

10. Bequests: The City “received a bequest for the purpose of establishing an interpretative center/pavilion in the park. This bequest, in the amount of $200,000 is in addition to a 1996 bequest by the same donor in the amount of $200,000.” (p. 14) [ The donor, George Stone, was named in a Times Colonist article August 21, 1996. (See that date for more details.)]

4. Section Four: Work Program for 2003

Plans for 2003 included hiring a consultants to conduct an “Inventory of Heritage Elements and Assessment of Heritage Significance.” Following that, the City would hire a consultant to design “programs and infrastructure to interpret park values.” [The Heritage Landscape Management Plan was released in 2004; the interpretation process has not begun as of December, 2004.]

Other plans were to develop an “Alternate Site Strategy” for special events, removing the parking lot on the west side of the Southeast Woods and restoring the natural area and reviewing fees charged for park uses. There was to be an effort to evaluate the off-leash dog area along Dallas Road. Collection of data on vehicle use of the Park was planned which would lead to a Traffic Management Plan during 2004. [This had not been accomplished by December, 2004.] An inventory and mapping of wildflowers in the Park was to be completed. [Dr. Adolf and Oluna Ceska were hired to complete this by the end of December, 2004, working with Michelle Gorman, Insect Pest Management.]

Work was expected to proceed with removal of the wading pool and the construction of a new water spray facility. The new facility had been approved in principle by Council in 2002. [This has not been accomplished. Beginning in January, 2005, a Steering Committee will meet to discuss the design, location and purpose of this water facility. (Beacon Hill Park Annual Report, 2002, p. 1-16)

[Note: There was no annual report on Beacon Hill Park produced in 2003. There was one-paragraph on page six on Beacon Hill Park in a small format twelve-page booklet titled “Highlights of 2003.” The booklet, issued in 2004, covered all City parks, recreation and community programs. Page one states it is “the first edition of Parks, Recreation and Community Development’s Annual Report.”]