The Goldstream News Gazette spoke to several mayors and councillors in search of hidden park gems in the West Shore.
Responses ranged from the familiar to the obscure, but all shared their favourites, sometimes with a childhood story on some of the best places in our own backyard.
Ken Williams – Mayor of Highlands: Highlands resident for 27 years
Williams calls Highlands a “cornucopia of park treasures,” with almost 40 per cent of this rural community designated as park land. While he said there are too many to mention them all, he pointed to one with a 360-degree view of the municipality that he especially enjoys.
“One of my favourite places … is Lone Tree Hill. It’s within walking distance to where I live and after a short, but vigorous hike up the trail, there is a plethora of cozy spots to rest and enjoy the peace and beauty of the Highlands vista,” he says. “The experience never fails to inspire me and I always come away with more energy than I used to get there and back home.”
Others he enjoys include Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, Mount Work Regional Park, which has a large area within the Highlands, and Scafe Hill, which is part of Thetis Lake Regional Park.
Moralea Milne – Metchosin Councillor: Metchosin resident for 26 years
The moss-laden trees on one of Milne’s favourite walks are “almost primeval,” and the air there almost seems steeped in antiquity, she says.
“One of the most magical walks I take is from Roche Cove, along the Galloping Goose, to Metchosin Creek and to Matheson Lake,” Milne says.
The Roche Cove walk, between four and five kilometres, begins at the parking lot off Gillespie Road, but she warns suitable footwear – i.e. more than flip-flops – is needed for the somewhat steep descent. She also reminds that anyone using the area must bring out any garbage they create.
“It’s a lovely spot to spend some time in quiet appreciation. As you climb back up the path, take the turn to the right and you will follow Metchosin Creek to its beginning at Matheson Lake,” she says. “Along the way you will find yourself immersed in a true West Coast rain forest experience.”
One can view the inner expanse of Roche Cove as you head east along the Goose, passing through Garry oak bluff habitat. Matheson Lake emerges before long. Continuing to the right takes you around the lake and eventually back to the Goose, but a shorter trail to the left, accessed about 100 yards back on the main trail, provides a shorter route that will return you more quickly to the Goose.
Stew Young – Mayor of Langford: Langford resident for 55 years
Young, who has lived in Langford his whole life, says despite being known for its active development scene, the city has some family-oriented park gems of its own.
“Growing up around here, you look around and there wasn’t much going on for kids and I think our stigma carries on,” he says. “We are not known for those things out there, but we have put in more spray parks and things for kids to do than anywhere.”
Glen Lake Park, which includes a playground and a waterfront area that continues to be popular with residents, is one of many little getaways within the city. Lesser-known spaces exist, including a beach area hidden off the Galloping Goose near the other end of Glen Lake.
Young notes there are no signs pointing to its location. It’s a “relatively unknown area you need to get to know,” he says, one that is a great place to just relax or go fishing. Parking is limited, but some spots are available near Rex Road and Jacklin Road, which will put you within walking distance of a trail near the old Belmont school, which will lead you to the far end of the lane.
He says a park in the middle of the Westhills development, up past the end of Langford Parkway, is another becoming more known by residents, who are making it a destination for the whole family.
David Screech – Mayor of View Royal: View Royal resident for 18 years
View Royal isn’t necessarily known for its parks, but should be, Screech says.
“There is actually quite a few parks not a lot of people know about. One of them I am particularly fond of is the View Royal part of Knockan Hill Park,” he says. “That is a piece of property, 2.5 acres with beautiful views over to the west, with Garry oak and arbutus trees.”
View Royal purchased the park in large part due to a local group called the Friends of Knockan Hill Park rallying to secure the property that adjoins the Saanich section of the park. In total it spans 12 acres, but the entrance Screech prefers is in View Royal at the top of High street.
“Largely it is just a natural park; unspoiled, no playground equipment or anything like that. It’s a nice, quiet space and a nice place to walk and the view of the Sooke hills is wonderful.”
Screech points to the popular Portage Park as a definite “gem,” with the trail and new playground additions, but another area steeped in local history is a highlight for him.
“Another beautiful spot in View Royal a lot of people don’t know is the beach access right at the foot of Stewart Avenue,” he says. “The view of Esquimalt Harbour is quite astounding and it’s a lovely, quiet little beach with the access named after one of the pioneer families in View Royal. One of the family’s descendants still lives on that street.”
Lilja Chong – Colwood Councillor: Colwood resident for seven years
First-term councillor Chong, a longtime West Shore resident, is particularly fond of two Colwood parks.
“Lookout Lake park is listed on Colwood’s city website, but it still remains a hidden gem because many people don’t realize it’s there,” she says. “Why it’s one of my favourites, is because there are multiple trails you can hike, making for a different adventure each time. Best of all, you can arrive on a beautiful, sunshiny day and even find that you have the lake to yourself for a private swim.”
Another of her favourites is the Cavendish lands, federal park land that borders Esquimalt Lagoon. It’s accessible from many points, including through the Esquimalt Lagoon bridge, Royal Roads University and Belmont Park. It’s a place that played a part in Chong’s childhood.
“This one especially resonates with me, because it was a place I would pass time with my friends throughout my middle school and high school years. The Cavendish lands are very much untouched, and once submersed in it, it’s like (one is in) a mystical land of bluffs, moss and old trees. The view is beautiful, the air crisp and you are surrounded by the sound of birds. It is, indeed, a Colwood hidden gem and much like a natural paradise.”
For more information on these parks and others around the West Shore, visit the municipal websites at highlands.bc.ca, metchosin.ca, cityoflangford.ca, viewroyal.ca and Colwood.ca as well as crd.bc.ca/parks.