Ray Travers, chair of the Memorial Avenue Committee, stands near the memorial trees on Shelbourne Street commemorating Canadian war deaths during the First World War. His group wants to turn the street into a larger commemorative space that would add more memorial trees to the street.                                Black Press File

Ray Travers, chair of the Memorial Avenue Committee, stands near the memorial trees on Shelbourne Street commemorating Canadian war deaths during the First World War. His group wants to turn the street into a larger commemorative space that would add more memorial trees to the street. Black Press File

Saanich moves ahead with Shelbourne war memorial plans

Local group wants to complete work that started nearly a century ago

Plans to transform Shelbourne Street into a commemorative space in time for the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War are gaining momentum.

Council Monday unanimously tasked staff to review plans by the Memorial Avenue Committee, a group of local volunteers, who want to complete work that nearly began a century ago, when Shelbourne Street became Canada’s first Road of Remembrance in Oct. 2, 1921.

These roads commemorated Canadian war deaths during the First World War by planting trees along major suburban roads like Shelbourne Street, and some 5,000 people, including then-premier John Oliver and Lieutenant-Governor Walter Nichol, attended the dedication, which also commemorated British Columbians, who died in Boer War (1899-1902).

Saanich built Shelbourne Street in 1916 as a major north-south road from Mount Douglas Park to Victoria. Plans to plant memorial trees on both sides of Shelbourne Street to honour British Columbian war deaths started around the same time. Proponents wanted to plant one tree for each killed soldier, a goal eventually rendered unfeasible by the number of British Columbian soldiers (6,000) killed.

Available space permitted 800 trees, and a total of 600 trees eventually appeared, running from Mount Douglas Park to Cedar Hill Cross Road in Saanich, and from Hillside to Bay Street in Victoria. Of those, 500 trees stood in Saanich.

However plans to plant trees along Shelbourne from Cedar Hill Cross Road to North Dairy never materialized, and as urban development intensified during the 1960s, Saanich cut down some 300 trees from Cedar Hill Cross Road to Torquay to widen Shelbourne to four from two lanes.

Saanich also contemplated but never completed re-naming Shelbourne Street to Memorial Avenue.

Plans proposed by the Memorial Avenue Committee call on Saanich to plant new London Plane deciduous trees along Shelbourne Street running from Pear Street to North Dairy, as part of the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan. The plan also calls on Saanich install interpretive panels in prominent locations along Shelbourne Street and include the phrase ‘Memorial Avenue’ in Shelbourne Street signage.

Council’s decision to send these plans to staff came after a presentation from Ray Travers, the committee’s chair.

“I think it will be a wonderful legacy to leave for future generations,” said Travers, who pegged the total budget of the plan at $139,000.

He said the project would attract tourist, raise property values, and increase historical awareness. Travers said it would remind people of the “enormous sacrifice” that the First World War demanded. Some 600 soldiers from the Greater Victoria area died.

Councillors praised the initiative, but also pumped the breaks.

“It really helps us understand our history and background,” said Coun. Karen Harper. But she — like others — also said that she looks forward to seeing the final details.

Coun. Colin Plant said it would be “premature” for Saanich to support this plan beyond “in principle” without having all of the facts. “I would like to know exactly what it costs,” he said.

Coun. Susan Brice said this project might unfold over multiple years.

Saanich’s decision to examine these plans came after the District had completed improvement to the Gore-Peace Memorial Park.

Dedicated in July 1919, the location hosted Remembrance Day services until about 1960. Three years earlier, Saanich placed a peace memorial made out of granite in the park. In 1970, it moved to Saanich Municipal Hall, the current location of Remembrance Day services.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Songhees Wellness Centre is a symbol of First Nations strength in the region. Representatives of local First Nations will soon play a greater role in decision making and governance relating to the Capital Regional District. (Courtesy Royal Roads University)
Capital Regional District to add First Nations representatives to advisory committees

Board approves bylaw, looks forward to Indigenous input on future decisions

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

(Black Press Media file photo)
Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in Elk Lake, water-based activities not recommended

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

(Black Press Media file photo)
From arts to environment, nominate your West Shore hero

Nominations for the Goldstream Gazette’s Local Hero awards are open to Jan. 15

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Most Read