Panama Flats plan highlights floodplain, agricultural land uses

Proposal for 65.56-acre site includes adding 36 acres to Agricultural Land Reserve and developing more walking trails

A concept for Panama Flats is now on the council table. And the long-term plan is strikingly similar to the vision Saanich had when it purchased the land three years ago.

The proposal includes adding 36 acres of the 65.56-acre parcel to the Agricultural Land Reserve and drainage improvements to enable agricultural use. It would see creation of a seasonal habitat for native animals and plants, as well as development of a more extensive trail system for users. The plan includes realignment and restoration of sections of the adjacent Colquitz River to enhance fish habitat, as well as restoration of the Garry Oak ecosystem and retention of the flood plain.

“We’ve spent quite a bit of time and resources with our own staff and an outside consultant to develop this plan,” said Mayor Frank Leonard last week.

Saanich announced a $2.4-million deal to purchase Panama Flats from Island Berry Co. in February 2011.

The acquisition was based on the desire to establish the site as public open space to provide floodplain management, optimize environmental values, create new park space and trails, and enhance food security.

“The concept plan has those ingredients,” Leonard said. “I think the master plan that we’re laying out is icing on the cake, really.”

Part of the proposal is to submit a chunk of the floodplain to the Agricultural Land Commission to be added to the provincial reserve.

“I think they’re tickled,” Leonard said. “They don’t get very many applications to put land into the Agricultural Land Reserve so they’ll be quite pleased.”

Over the past three years, residents had their say through a series of meetings, presentations and an open house last October.

Visit saanich.ca to view the entire plan.

reporter@saanichnews.com