Darrell Wick

Darrell Wick

Mount Doug park still holds a few mysteries

District of Saanich celebrates 20 years overseeing the park

To the average park visitor, hikes through Mount Doug offer winding trails, scenic views and beach access,188-hectares of solace within Saanich.

For members of the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society, an afternoon walk also offers clues to the park’s storied past – a past highlighted this week on the 20th anniversary of its transfer from the province to Saanich.

Darrell Wick, president of Friends of Mount Doug, briskly climbs toward the summit of the mountain. To his left, a park volunteer pulls invasive species – broom, garlic mustard – to his right, a steep slope still bears the scars of motorcycle climbs from the 1960s.

And further along his walk: the mouth of one of two of the mountain’s abandoned mine shafts, built circa 1870 when prospectors found gold flakes and quartz. Wick doesn’t hesitate to climb right into the mouth of the cave, which could easily go unnoticed.

While he can’t recommend the adventurous activity, he happily answers questions from curious passersby, acknowledging with a chuckle that the level of spiders within the shaft is low.

At the summit, more hints at the park’s mysterious past easily fly under the radar. Two large cement blocks of unknown origin are now covered over in moss. Another question mark emerges: the remnants of bases for wood power poles.

“Obviously there was something up here, we just don’t know what,” Wick said. “We think it might have been some sort of lookout during the war. We’re really curious ourselves.”

A man-made pond near the summit appears to be the last of the enigmas atop the mountain. Some of Mount Doug’s known history still might come as a surprise to visitors.

The top parking lot sits on a sunken two-storey building that houses equipment for the nearby transmission tower. The existence of the building easily goes unnoticed by most – one of the two initial triumphs for Wick, who, along with a group of advocates, rallied to see the equipment moved from a location planned on the southeast summit.

“We thought, ‘My goodness, that’s going to destroy the ambiance of Mount Doug. You’ll see it from everywhere.’”

The other key controversy from which the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society was born in 1989 during the 100th anniversary of the park: their successful bid to stop the extension of Shelbourne Street, four lanes of roadway, through the park.

Though the park had been previously owned and operated by the City of Victoria, by 1989 it fell under jurisdiction of the province. On Nov. 22, 1992, B.C. officially transferred the title to Saanich and the district installed a copper charter at the summit.

Since 1992, Saanich has added more than 21 hectares to the park, including the lands around Little Mount Douglas within the park boundary.

“It’s quite satisfying work to see the positive outcomes and working with Saanich is quite positive,” said Wick, one of four founding members of the society still advocating for the preservation of the urban forest. “We get a lot of support from Saanich parks, the public and the press.”

On Thursday, Nov. 22, the society and the district will host a park rededication ceremony and unveil a second charter and several enhancement projects.

“It’s been a quiet success story,” said Mayor Frank Leonard. “We still have some times when the dialogue is tested because the Friends (of Mount Doug) are very good advocates. It’s a very healthy dialogue.”

Balancing the desire to preserve the land in its natural state with enjoyment of increased visitors – a daily rush of whom now come to the park before noon while the summit road (Churchill Road) is closed to vehicle traffic – is the biggest, and unrelenting challenge for the society, even after 20 years of successes.

Rebuilding salmon beds in Douglas Creek, monitoring the deterioration of Cordova Bay Road along eroding cliffs, tree planting and keeping up with the spread of invasive species are ongoing issues, Wick said.

“It’s a fantastic park and the popularity in the last 10 years has gone up exponentially,” he added. “The challenge is to preserve it as a natural park, but to have many, many visitors. It’s a very serious ongoing challenge.”

The Mount Doug park 20th anniversary ceremony is Nov. 22, 10 a.m. at the front gate of Churchill Drive.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Snippets of Mount Douglas Park history

The forest was the source of the cedar pickets used to construct Fort Victoria in 1843.

-Originally known as “Hill of Cedars” to the Songhees First Nation and later as Hyde park. for a short time in the 1850s

-Established as a government reserve in 1858 and named after first Governor, Sir James Douglas.

-In the early 1900s, the Royal Oak Station of the V&S Railway brought park visitors about three kilometres from the park. In 1915 a bus route through the park connected Royal Oak with Gordon Head.

-A restaurant operated by George and Elizabeth Libby, and a tea room operated by Maude Hunter, drew visitors from the 1920s to the 1950s.

 

Just Posted

Saanich Volunteer Services Society volunteers head out to deliver this week’s meals to local seniors. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
VIDEO: Weekly meal deliveries help brighten the day for Saanich seniors

Seniors are delivered nutritional meals by a group of volunteers every Wednesday

Kidspace, which took over the YMCA-YWCA childcare centre at Eagle Creek Village, plans to reopen the Y’s fitness centre as the Eagle Creek Athletic Club in September. (Photo courtesy of Kidpsace)
Former Y fitness centre in View Royal aims to reopen in September

Kidspace taking over both the gym and the childcare facility at Eagle Creek Village

Cheyenne, six, Savannah, three, and Jeremiah Sinclair, 8, were out on walk with their mother on June 4 when they discovered the first of several hundred fish that died after bleach leaked into Reay Creek. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Spill in Sidney’s Reay Creek turns into ecological lesson for local children

Federal-provincial investigation ongoing into what appears to be a bleach spill

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read