Under high voltage power lines, in sight of a youth detention centre and on rutted, uneven ground, it’s home sweet home for archers in Victoria.
On a wedge of land between Burnside Road, Watkiss Way and the Trans-Canada Highway, the Victoria Bowmen have found a new permanent range after a two years of being an archery club with out a home.
Now with three acres of land surrounded by berms and brush, the region’s only outdoor archery range this side of the Malahat is up and running, albeit under less than ideal conditions.
“This was a dump pile from when they built the (Trans-Canada) highway. It was full of cement and plastic and all kinds of crap in here,” laughed club vice-president Bruce Somers. “But this is an ideal spot.”
After nearly 45 continuous years of archery, the club was evicted from Department of National Defence land in Colwood in October 2009. The navy reclaimed the space for its own uses.
Somers and Bowmen president Al Wills – both 40 year members of the 60 year club – investigated leasing land at Luxton Fairgrounds, the old police gun range near Thetis Lake and the Boys and Girls Club in Metchosin, but all had discouraging logistical and bureaucratic hurdles.
Long-idle land owned by Provincial Capital Commission at Burnside and Watkiss proved to be as good as it gets. The parcel is isolated from neighbourhoods by berms and brush, but is near urban areas, and large enough to hold lower-level competitions.
“The PCC wants to see a wonderful archery range out here, they’re excited for us to use it,” Somers said.
The PCC gave its permission to use the land last year, and the Bowman rushed headlong into building a large berm, removing brush and prepping the ground for a field. Unfortunately they failed to get permits from View Royal, halting prep work in its tracks.
Wills admitted they know a lot about archery, but little about the rules of property development. Fortunately no damage was done to an existing creek and riparian area, and a surveys and environmental studies have been completed. View Royal is helping guide them through the process, Wills said.
“Everything must be finished the way the (View Royal) planner wants and then it’s up to council,” he said. We won’t be building a target archery field until we get all our ducks in a row.”
In the meantime during the summer, Bowmen archers skewer targets with calm precision on the rough field. Wills is happy any members remain after two years of renting indoor space and wandering in the proverbial wilderness.
“We’ve got about 50 members now, we had 150 in the old days,” Wills said. “It’s a tribute to the faith of the archers that we’ve got 50. And it will be nice to not spend a ton of money on renting schools and gyms.”
If and when the archery field is built – it would look akin to a soccer field – Somers said he’s looking forward to reviving Bowman youth archery programs.
“There’s a lot of young families around here,” said Somers, a retired teacher. “To build up the sport, you’ve got to start with the kids.
“We’ve brought kids through all the way to the Olympic level.”
George Trattner, a 16-year member, said it’s tough to start from scratch — the DND property had a club house and plenty of space for target and field archery. The new range is expected to have up to 90 metre targets, but there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver.
“(The DND land) was probably the best facility of its kind in Canada, it was a phenomenal place,” Trattner said. “But this place has potential.”