Construction work on a new bike path through Rainbow Park in Saanich.

Construction work on a new bike path through Rainbow Park in Saanich.

Rainbow connection irks neighbours

Ongoing construction of a bike path through a colourful Saanich park is leaving some area residents seeing red.

Ongoing construction of a bike path through a colourful Saanich park is leaving some area residents seeing red.

Rainbow Park, located off McKenzie Avenue and the Pat Bay Highway, is more or less getting in the way of building a commuter cycling route connecting the Galloping Goose trail (from municipal hall) to Quadra Street.

And while more than 18 months of discussions and compromises between Saanich and neighbours helped firm up a plan, neighbours are still unhappy that the municipality’s solution to the problem is to build the concrete path through the park.

“The whole bike path was contested (by the neighbourhood) from the word ‘go,'” said Ralph Street resident Matt Yerrell. “We have concerns. And when you try to maintain your neighbourhood as best you can, it seems you unfortunately have to fight with Saanich to do that.”

Saanich’s manager of transportation says the new Douglas Street connector is part of council’s goal of increasing cycling in the municipality. Jim Hemstock says getting through Rainbow Park is the trickiest and most expensive part of the bike path, as much of the rest of the route will be on existing road.

“The park has had a little bit of a beating in the past,” Hemstock said, referring to a large portion of Rainbow Park that was lost when the McKenzie-Pat Bay interchange was built in 1994. “Residents were pretty sensitive when we said we wanted to put a bike route through the park. We tried to find a design that had as minimum impact as possible, but even so, there’s some folks that would prefer us not to be there.”

Yerrell’s concerns are not with Saanich being there – it’s that he believes there was a communication breakdown, amid months of back-and-forth meetings, on what both sides ultimately agreed on for the park.

“A lot of this might be alleviated if Saanich comes back (to a neighbourhood) for follow-up before implementing a project like this – ‘This is what we’re doing, this is what we’re not doing,'” he said.

A secondary concrete path connecting the new bike path to the existing playground, as another bone of contention. “The verbal agreement we thought we had was that … they were not going to do it,” Yerrell said.

Yerrell adds that there are other concerns about the project, but it’ll only be once construction is over that neighbours will see if Saanich follows through on what neighbours believe to be the plan. Amid these concerns are the rebuilding a berm, planting of trees along the path and building a fence so neighbours don’t have path users constantly looking into their backyards.

Hemstock says construction crews will likely be working at the park till the end of the month.

“I think part of the concern is the folks are seeing the construction. … So it looks horrible now, but that’ll change,” he said.

The project is partially funded by a $100,000 provincial Cycling Infrastructure Partnership Program grant. The cost of the Douglas Street connector – including construction and new signage – is just over $200,000.

kslavin@saanichnews.com