A spokesperson for the group trying to turn surplus land into a public park cheers Saanich’s financial support for the project, but also acknowledges that more work lies ahead.
Adam Kreek, a spokesperson for Save Kings Park, the community group headed by his wife Rebecca Sterritt, said group members are happy Saanich council has a conditional agreement to purchase 2.2-hectares of land between Kings Road and Haultain Street for $5.5 million from BC Hydro, which deemed the land surplus.
Excited for our community! We've been fighting for this park for over a year, and we just had a big win! https://t.co/OsiGM3alT2
— Adam Kreek (@adamkreek) January 31, 2019
“We are collaborative, we are grateful, and we are thankful that council has taken this step,” he said.
But outside observers may also note that it comes with a hitch. Saanich wants to sell off a portion of the property to help recover some of the cost, if the municipality cannot raise $2.75 million in funding from other funding sources, including other local governments, community associations and organizations and residents, with more information coming forward at a later date.
Read another way, Saanich is raising the potential loss of green space to leverage funding from sources outside and inside the municipality, which may have never had any interest in purchasing the land.
Kreek said he won’t comment on Saanich’s tactics. But he also said that Saanich should review all of its assets for potential surplus properties to sell.
This said, residents from other communities including the Oak Bay and Victoria use the park as well, said Kreek. He also pointed out that the park is a destination for staff, patients, and visitors of nearby Royal Jubilee Hospital.
Saanich’s announcement marks a major turning point in the history of the property. BC Hydro has owned the property since 1958 and recently determined it is surplus to its needs. It offered the land to the provincial government, Crown agencies and local First Nations, before Saanich accepted the opportunity to purchase it.
The fate of the property became an election issue after the group around Sterritt had earlier started a campaign to turn the land into a park, launching an online petition that drew thousands of signatures.
Following immediately the Oct. 20 municipal election, then mayor-elect Fred Haynes identified the issue as a priority.
“We heard from residents over the last several months that this property is a crucial part of their community,” he said. “It’s important that we balance our commitment to fiscal responsibility with the needs of the community, so we’re asking for support to help us raise funds to cover the cost of this property.”
Kreek, not surprisingly, would like to see the land become a park. As Saanich becomes more dense, park space is essential, he said. “People want and need a wild space into which they can escape,” he said. Ultimately, the group around Sterritt and its dedicated volunteers appears committed to saving the entire space.
“Our community is resolute to save the entire space,” said Kreek. “We won’t stop until the entire space is saved.”