Oak Bay community sees untapped potential in Turkey Head

The Turkey Head Walkway. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)The Turkey Head Walkway. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch on the breakwater that extends from Turkey Head and protects the Oak Bay Marina. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch on the breakwater that extends from Turkey Head and protects the Oak Bay Marina. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Kevin Murdoch on the breakwater that extends from Turkey Head and protects the Oak Bay Marina. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)Kevin Murdoch on the breakwater that extends from Turkey Head and protects the Oak Bay Marina. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Movie crews pay about $500 per day to rent Turkey Head. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)Movie crews pay about $500 per day to rent Turkey Head. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
The Turkey Head Walkway. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)The Turkey Head Walkway. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

This is the final segment in a three-part series on the Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head

One of the biggest questions that stood out in the Community Association of Oak Bay’s community consultation about Turkey Head in the summer of 2017 was the parking lot.

Expanded in the early 1960s to accommodate visitors to Oak Bay Marina and later, Sealand of the Pacific, the area is one of Oak Bay’s most prized pieces of ocean-side real estate. Many of the responses suggested other uses for Turkey Head.

“A significant portion of the site is devoted to parking areas created for the historical Sealand of the Pacific facility, which now is seldom used to full capacity,” said the report.

READ ALSO: A community vision for Turkey Head

“Free parking, underused, often empty, is what most of it is,” added Kristina Leach of the CAOB.

Oak Bay isn’t alone in dedicating oceanfront land to parking. Victoria’s Clover Point – a constant spot for kites as well as the home of Shakespeare by the Sea – and Ship’s Point have made for memorable festival destinations.

The 2017 public charettes were held in partnership with the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network. Members did a walkabout of Turkey Head, notes in hand.

“We’ve been talking about this for 30 years,” said Rick Marshall of the CAOB. “It’s such a prime spot historically. Turkey Head is a nexus.”

One option is to install a public washroom facility and enhance the natural landscape along Turkey Head that was paved over, said CAOB member and marine wildlife advocate Jacque Sirois. Moreover, Sirios says the (pre-COVID) tourism industry was hard on the sensitive ecosytem of Cattle Point. And Turkey Head could help alleviate that.

“Cattle Point needs a break from the amount of visitors there,” Sirois said. “This could draw the tourism buses away from Cattle Point. Tourism is thrashing it. People are peeing on rare native flowers there.”

Looking back at Turkey Head’s design, there were other options overlooked, Sirois noted.

“There never was any real design,” he said. “They just dumped fill until it was a parking lot. It could have tidal pools and be a lot greener, and welcoming to native habitat.”

The request for proposals on the new 30-year lease, due Nov. 30, includes a long list of guiding principles.

One is an environmental caveat that the plan mitigates to climate change. It also specifies the proposal protect and enhance the site’s natural features and ecosystem health, builds awareness of First Nations culture, language, traditions and worldview, and strengthens the surrounding neighbourhood.

Is should also provide opportunities for residents to enjoy the site’s natural beauty and pursue active and healthy outdoor lifestyles, and encourage site access via active modes of transportation.

READ ALSO: Part 1: Oak bay seeks proposals for new Oak Bay Marina lease

“Overall, there was overwhelming support for additional activations, facilities and amenities at Turkey Head,” said the CAOB report, based on feedback gathered at Oak Bay night markets in the summer of 2017.

At the least was a call for a gathering space, for seasonal events such as farmer markets, but also interest in an amphitheater or stage. Multiple adults also suggested it would be the perfect place for an outdoor pool. Youth suggested it was an ideal spot for a skateboard spot, adding the skate park at Oak Bay Recreation Centre is too small.

“The idea was a ‘blank slate’ approach,” Leach said.

“As an association we wanted to promote some kind of public engagement process that promotes that space,” Marshall said.

Perhaps an interpretive centre that mimics the original Samuel Maclure boathouse and which boasts the history of the area for First Nations and as a modern fishing outpost, Marshall added.

“Or something about the Pig War, from 1859, on San Juan Island,” Sirois said, when the pig of a Hudson Bay Company outfit wondered into U.S. settlement and helped itself to the potatoes. A farmer shot the pig and, surprisingly, his request to the U.S. military for help was met with a small deployment of soldiers. It sparked a type of cold war standoff between the U.S. and British Navy in the waters between Oak Bay and the Puget Sound for over a decade.

“And it may have slowed the settlement into Oak Bay [which was owned by HBC],” Sirois said.

The District of Oak Bay will provide an opportunity to provide feedback on proposed community amenities to help inform Oak Bay council’s final decisions on submissions.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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