Interchange cuts deeper into Saanich park

Advocate concerned new highway interchange will disrupt habitat at Cuthbert Holmes Park

Dorothy Chambers looks across a stretch of Cuthbert Holmes Park. The park advocate said she was recently informed the McKenzie interchange will extend a further 20 metres into the park.

Dorothy Chambers is known as a warden of Cuthbert Holmes Park in Saanich.

The fiery activist has fought for the park on many occasions and continues to do so. One of her ongoing battles has been a lack of clarity from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Chambers was aghast when the ministry laid out its McKenzie interchange plans earlier this year, which will construct a partial cloverleaf over a large section of Cuthbert Holmes. She accepted it, begrudgingly, and began working to protect the buffer area between the park and the cloverleaf.

However, last week Chambers was alarmed to find markers indicating construction would extend a further 20 metres into the park.

“I have been seriously misled about this McKenzie cloverleaf project, and in turn, you have all been duped by misguided information,” Chambers said in an Aug. 4 letter to park stakeholders, media, Saanich, ministry officials and others. “There has been a slight error in the amount of parkland required from the original version.”

A ministry spokesman said the 20-metre estimate is not an accurate reflection of the limits shown to Chambers and what has been staked.

“Recent survey work has included marking out the property boundaries of the project within ministry-owned lands,” said Sonia Lowe, public affairs officer with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. “This footprint is very similar to the original plans presented at recent open houses.”

Chambers explained that on May 17, herself and Julian Anderson of the Friends of Cuthbert Holmes Park met with Mike Pearson, the Ministry of Transportation engineer operations manager for Vancouver Island, and Joanne Letkeman, the ministry’s senior environmental co-ordinator, for a tour through Cuthbert Holmes.

The purpose of the meeting was to walk and flag the footprint of the cloverleaf project, Chambers said.

Once Chambers knew the footprint, she shared it with several members of the community, explaining the “flagged footprint,” as it was laid out by the ministry, she said. The problem is, she feels duped, as she was incorrectly showing what she believed to be the directly impacted area.

“This past month, areas of brush have been cut and property line markers have been erected deep into the park,” Chambers said. “I have made several inquiries to MOTI, emails and phone calls to Saanich and couldn’t get an answer as to why they were so far from the footprint I had been shown.”

Last week Chambers met with Dave Edgar, the transportation and planning engineer from MOTI, and Mike Dinney, the project manager. It was confirmed that the cloverleaf will occupy more of the park than initially explained, much of it into forested parkland and over the precious mud flats of the Colquitz.

It was originally a much smaller area of destruction of parkland, she said.

Lowe said the ministry has worked closely with local stakeholders, providing regular updates to local governments, adjacent property owners and resident associations.

 

“Prior to the stakes being placed in the field, staff provided an approximate indication of the limits of construction to help show Ms. Chambers,” she said. “Ministry staff has since met with Ms. Chambers to discuss the location of the stakes as well as further opportunities to minimize impacts to vegetation at the property line.”

 

 

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