Environmental advocates in Saanich can now begin restoration efforts sooner than anticipated at Kings Road Community Nature Space.
In an 8-1 vote with an amendment brought forth by Coun. Zac de Vries at the Nov. 22 council meeting, the motion removed the fundraising requirement of a remaining $635,000 from the community – to be paid by the District of Saanich instead. No extra costs were introduced at the meeting, however, the district will now simply add this portion onto payments they’re already making toward the park.
Saanich acquired the land from BC Hydro in 2019 for $5.5 million, a sale that was enabled partly with $1.47 million from the district’s Land Sale Reserve Fund. When the fundraising total of $2.15 million is subtracted, the balance is nearly $3.4 million for the final purchase cost to Saanich.
De Vries said this change will reduce the financial burden of fundraising efforts, as well as time delays, so fundraisers and advocates of the park can instead direct their energy to preservation and restoration. “Time is one of those things you can’t buy back,” he said.
“If we went through with fundraising we’d be looking at another year of delaying real action and impact on the ecological integrity of this site,” de Vries added, pointing to such protection efforts as restoration of the creek and preserving habitat for precious species, such as owls.
Commonly referred to as Kings Park by residents, the green space is located near the municipal borders of Saanich, Victoria, and Oak Bay, which all contributed to fundraising efforts for partial payment of the park.
$1.75 million was garnered from the CRD through the sale of Willis Point. $250,000 was put toward the space from the City of Victoria, $75,000 came from Oak Bay, and another $40,000 was fundraised through efforts in the community.
“Let’s unleash the power of this group to achieve what they really want to, which isn’t just the purchase of this land, but the restoration of it,” Mayor Fred Haynes said during the meeting, adding the decision is an example of direct climate action by local government.
Rebecca Sterritt, a community leader in fundraising and lobbying efforts to protect the space, said it is a relief to know the space is now fully protected.
“The land was acquired through debt financing – it was essentially mortgaged and they’re paying it off – instead of requiring the fundraising groups to raise the money to pay the mortgage, Saanich is just going to continue to pay it,” she said, adding restoration efforts can now be better prioritized.
Restoration efforts will include planting trees, improving the creek, adding more habitat for wildlife, and other restoration activities.
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