A four-acre park is a dream come true for Ashleigh Hooks, who lives in a townhome in Langford’s Happy Valley neighborhood – a dream she believes will be ruined when an archery club relocates nearby.
Since April, the Langford woman has dropped by Willing Park almost daily to get some fresh air, stretch her legs and meet her neighbours.
“Since we live in townhouses, it feels like we don’t have any greenspace, so this small piece of land means a lot,” said Hooks. “I don’t want to see this created into an ugly eyesore. This is public land and not for a privatized group.”
Hooks refers to a Sept. 30 open house where city officials presented residents of Valley View Estates with the potential plans for Willing Park as the new home of the Victoria Bowmen’s Association.
The proposal includes paving a parking lot for about 20 spots, construction of berms for a shooting range and relocation of two sea cans on the field to store archery equipment. Plans show a realignment of a one-kilometre trail that goes through the park.
Hooks launched a petition to express her disappointment and garnered nearly 600 signatures.
She’s asking the city to indefinitely suspend plans to relocate the club to Willing Park, avoid paving green space, building concrete walls or removing trees, and consider suggestions from nearby residents on how the space should be used.
Hook says that though the relocation to Willing Park may be the most cost effective option for the archery club, it’s a cost too high for the residents and wildlife.
Al Wills, president of the Victoria Bowmen’s Association, said they’ve been looking for a new space for the past two years as the province favoured BC Transit’s plans to place a handyDART bus facility in their View Royal outdoor shooting area.
Currently, the group is using Saanich Commonwealth to practice shooting. According to Wills, Langford offered the park as a viable option.
“I have looked at every possible park and I haven’t found one that is more perfect than Willing Park,” said Wills. “It has so much potential to be the centre of a world class archery range too.”
Glenn Willing, a member of the family that donated a portion of their farmland as a park years ago, said while he doesn’t have anything against the archery club, he believes the city’s proposal limits potential for future improvements.
“This blocks the chance that a future ball park could be built because in my mind they got the best part of the park,” said Willing. “The pond that’s there makes it impossible to put anything on that side of the land.”
Public engagement is ongoing and the project is not expected before council again until 2021.