Inspired purely out of celebration, Mayor Fred Haynes threw his arms up in the air when posing for a news photo to mark Saanich’s $5.5 million purchase of the B.C. Hydro field between Kings Road and Haultain Street.
It was Jan. 30, nearly 20 years to the day, since Maia Green was pictured in the news – in a near identical pose – to celebrate saving the Hydro field from becoming a 500-car gravel parking lot.
“I had no idea [about the Green photo], it’s something about that greenspace that makes people throw their arms up,” Haynes said. “The gesture came from a natural celebration of council’s work to secure the land.”
It was Green’s mom Cheryl who, on seeing the photo of Haynes, alerted her daughter to the likeness of the picture of Green. At the time of the photo, January of 1999, Green was in Grade 10 at Oak Bay High and had recently founded the fledgling Oak Bay High Environmental Club (the one that started the wildly popular Bowker Creek rubber duck race and clean up). Green and her environmentally-focused friends partnered with Friends of Bowker Creek and Camosun Community Association in rallying hundreds of signatures on a local petition to cancel the plan.
The scare of a parking lot brought together groups from all three cities, Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria, as the land borders Victoria to the west along Richmond and is a block from Foul Bay Road where Saanich borders Oak Bay. Then MLA Steve Orcherton played a significant role in liaising between the hospital, Saanich and the greenspace advocates.
It was late 1998, or early 1999, when B.C. Hydro had agreed to convert the land into parking spaces. The lot would have served employees of the Royal Jubilee Hospital as the campus underwent major construction to build a $46.7 million cancer clinic and the $8 million 440-spot parkade. Trees would have been removed and gravel placed across most of the field, Green said.
“To be clear, nobody was ever against the cancer clinic,” Green said. “And as you can see, 20 years later we have a wonderful cancer clinic without a parking lot here. But it took 20 years to get this place permanently saved.”
Green remembers visiting local churches in search of parking opportunities within the vicinity of the Jubilee. Among the suggestions were a park-and-ride at the government building parking lot of 4000 Seymour Place (behind Kirby’s Source for Sports off Cloverdale).
There was also a tacit understanding that neighbours would accept the uptick in residential street parking as a trade off to save the park.
Amongst all the things Green can take credit for and celebrate, raising her arms in the photo wasn’t one of them, she said.
“Actually I didn’t want to do it. The photographer asked me to do it, it wasn’t my idea. I guess they wanted me to do something more interesting than just sitting there,” Green recalled laughing. “I wasn’t happy about it. Of all the photos we took that day, that wasn’t one I wanted picked.”
It’s all tongue and cheek for Green now. The Saanich resident teaches at Rock Heights middle school and though she wasn’t part of the upstart 2018 Save Kings Park campaign, she kept an eye on it.
The deal closes in August however, there’s a catch. Saanich council agreed on the purchase with the caveat that it would get back $2.75 million of the $5.5 million purchase through yet-to-be-determined resources.
Haynes said he hopes to attend the March 24 community meeting spearheaded by the Save Kings Park group that will strategize a community-led campaign to help raise the $2.75 million.
For now the campaign details are still being finalized at Saanich’s end, said Saanich spokesperson Kelsie McLeod.
Council’s next step will be to establish appropriate fundraising options and a process and will share an update once there is more information, she said.