Many of Colwood’s most popular outdoor recreation spots don’t belong to the municipality, and one of its most notable green spaces could soon change hands.
The Department of National Defence (DND) has owned the land occupied by Royal Roads University since acquiring it from the Dunsmuir family during the Second World War, but according to Jessica Lamirande, senior communications officer with the DND, the department no longer “has an operational need for the Royal Roads property” and is “considering various options for disposal.”
The university or the property’s heritage buildings won’t be affected, Lamirande added.
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton disclosed this information at a December council meeting.
Esquimalt Nation and Songhees First Nation have expressed interest in the land and negotiations are ongoing. Both bands have identified the property as a core part of their claimed traditional territory. It’s unclear how long the negotiations will take and what effect a transfer of ownership might have on the abundant trails and green space on the property.
“Whether it comes or it doesn’t, we don’t know. We are just given the basics of information. We aren’t at the negotiating side of things,” Hamilton told the Gazette.
Representatives from both Esquimalt and Songhees nations didn’t respond to a request for comment before the Gazette’s print deadline.
The notice from the federal government has already sparked some thought from City officials on what can be done to improve the amount of green space under its control.
“Having awareness of it, then we can also start thinking about what if those lands are to change in the future and what they might change to, what we would like to see happen and how we can partner to ensure that we have an outcome that’s beneficial to all of the community,” Hamilton said.
The reality that much of Colwood’s green space belongs to other jurisdictions hasn’t been lost on the City and that fact led the municipality to aggressively pursue the development of Havenwood Park.
“The only real park space we had with trees were on lands that don’t belong to us,” Hamilton noted. “We may have to do that in some other areas well.”