A Barred owl rests in the Kings Road greenspace which advocates are trying to protect by fundraising $2.75 million. (Photo by Katie Pfeifer)

A Barred owl rests in the Kings Road greenspace which advocates are trying to protect by fundraising $2.75 million. (Photo by Katie Pfeifer)

Saanich extends deadline for Kings Park fundraiser, holds off on contributing $1.75 million

District to call on Oak Bay, Victoria to contribute to establishing sub-regional park

Saanich will ask Oak Bay and Victoria to contribute to the purchase of the Kings Road greenspace to establish a sub-regional park as advocates work to raise $2.75 million by the new deadline.

During a meeting on April 26, at the recommendation of the Mayor’s Standing Committee on Fundraising for the Kings Road Community Nature Green Spaces, Saanich council voted in favour of granting a one-year extension for the fundraiser and seeking outside contributions from the two municipalities neighbouring the greenspace. A vote on the third recommendation, which asked that the $1.75 million earned in the April 15 sale of Saanich’s Willis Point Road property to the Capital Regional District (CRD) be allocated to help with the purchase, was postponed.

READ ALSO: Saanich halts herbicide use at Kings Park greenspace amid neighbourhood outcry

Karen Harper, a member of the committee, said during the meeting that extending the deadline to March 31, 2022 was an obvious choice because of the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had on the group’s ability to fundraise. She added that while the space didn’t qualify for a regional park, it’s used by residents in Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria, so asking the other municipalities to contribute to a sub-regional park makes sense.

Council voted 6-3 to delay approval of the third recommendation until Saanich hears how much the other two municipalities can contribute – Harper, Mayor Fred Haynes and Coun. Nathalie Chambers were opposed.

Saanich purchased the six-acre Kings Road property from BC Hydro for $5.5 million in 2019. At the time, the district said $2.75 million would need to be raised to offset the cost, or portions of the lot would be sold.

Coun. Zac de Vries said allocating money from the Willis Point Road property sale didn’t align with council’s original plan and Coun. Judy Brownoff pointed out that adding such a large sum to the fundraiser might reduce the sense of urgency. The $1.75 million will remain in the district’s land sales reserve fund.

READ ALSO: Saanich to sell Willis Point Road property to CRD for $1.75 million

Haynes, committee chair, felt the extra funds would have provided certainty amid the pandemic’s impacts on fundraising, but is hopeful Victoria and Oak Bay will help acquire “the emerald parkway of Bowker Creek.”

Rebecca Sterritt, area resident and committee member, was surprised by council’s decision because the concept of allocating the funds from the Willis Point Road property sale to Kings Park was suggested as an alternative to the CRD establishing a regional park.

However, the deadline extension will give the volunteers time to regroup and move forward, she said. “We’re really keen to continue fundraising and to have the space fully protected” so that the focus can shift to environmental restoration. Anyone looking to contribute or get involved can visit saanichlegacy.ca.

Do you have a story tip? Email: devon.bidal@saanichnews.com.

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