A group dedicated to Bowker Creek hopes the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) will halt the proposed sale of land the creek runs alongside.
SD 61 announced an agreement in October 2021 to sell 1.9 acres of land south of Lansdowne Middle School to Victoria Hospice for $2.5 million.
It surprised members of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society.
Sale of the triangular-shaped property in Saanich would be subject to approval by the Ministry of Education and need to pass three readings of a disposal bylaw by the SD61 board of education.
If approved, the property would be used as a new Centre of Excellence for Victoria Hospice, with space for expanded services including grief support, community education and practical programs for people diagnosed with a life-limiting illness and the bereaved.
Hospice is a service everyone supports, said Soren Henrich, chair of the Friends’ steering committee for the Bowker Creek Initiative. But, he contends, there are simply too many constraints for building on the 1.9-acre parcel, which includes half the width of the creek and is a known flood plain.
Society members Peter and Susan Haddon of Saanich live not far away and say the extreme rainfall of November 2021 put a spotlight on the flood potential when the Haultain bridge was nearly under water.
The society supports the restoration and enhancement of Bowker Creek and its watershed to a healthy state, guided by the Capital Regional District’s Bowker Creek Blueprint.
The blueprint, finalized in 2011, outlines a 100-year plan for the waterway including rejuvenation work. SD61 signed on in 2018 and has been responsible for significant aid in the restoration work done adjacent to Oak Bay High.
That’s why it was a surprise to society members when the district announced its proposal to sell what they’d always seen as a community greenspace.
“There’s never been a conversation or collaboration about what to do with the property,” Peter Haddon said.
An SD 61 backgrounder shows community engagement began Oct. 14 and included an online question and answer session Nov. 3. The school district deemed the property surplus and not needed for educational purposes, with revenue from its potential sale targeted to fund future capital projects, including environmental and sustainable design and to renovate and replace schools.
Residents were afforded an opportunity to speak during two meetings in November and December, but it felt like a one-way conversation, Susan Haddon said.
In December, four trustees and staff, alongside representatives from Victoria Hospice, the District of Saanich and Friends of Bowker Creek, gathered for a presentation, discussion and tour of the creek with members of the Bowker Creek Initiative.
During its subsequent meeting, the board put off voting on the land disposal bylaw with the item on the agenda again Jan. 24. Find the agenda and how to participate online at sd61.bc.ca.
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