View from Finlayson Point eastward to Clover Point
Clover Point is a 10.39 acre property. The eastern boundary of Clover Point Park is Ross Bay; the western boundary is Cook Street. Clover Point was owned by the Canada Department of Defence and leased to the City for use as a park until 1988 when ownership was transferred to the City of Victoria.
Clover Point is a very heavily used park. It has been a major destination for people in cars since 1956, when the loop road was “hard-surfaced and landscaped as a viewpoint parking area.” Parking for 100 cars was announced at that time. Despite several proposals to remove the roadway and create a safer pedestrian-only area, asphalt continues to cover a large portion of the Point and car traffic is heavy.
The grassy centre of the loop and the area west of the Point are popular kite-flying areas. People and their dogs walk the path and the beach. Paragliders fly along the edge of the bluff to the west while windsurfers and kiteboarders frequent the beach below. Large crowds gather on Clover Point and nearby bluffs each May for the annual Swiftsure Yacht Race. The starting line is just off the Point and sailboats line up close to shore.
Early History of Clover Point
When Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor James Douglas landed on the point in 1842, he named it for the acres of tall red clover growing “most luxuriantly.” Douglas reported to John McLoughlin on July 12, 1842:
"In two places particularly, we saw several acres of clover growing with a luxuriance and compactness more resembling the close sward of a well-managed lea than the produce of an uncultivated waste." (“The Founding of Victoria,” The Beaver, Outfit 273, March, 1943, p. 6)
Douglas wrote to his friend James Hargrave: “I was...delighted in ranging over fields knee deep in clover, tall grasses and ferns reaching above our heads, at these unequivocal proofs of fertility.” (James Douglas to James Hargrave, February 5, 1843, G. P. de T. Glazebrook, ed. The Hargrave Correspondence, p. 421)
The most likely clover species referred to by Douglas is Springbank Clover (Trifolium wormskjoldii), according to botanist Dr. T. Christopher Brayshaw. Local First Nations people cared for and managed the land for centuries in order to harvest edible plants such as camas and clover.
Ethno-botanist Dr. Nancy Turner explained: “[Clover] rhizomes were...a valued food of First Nations and undoubtedly used by the Lekwungen (Songhees) peoples who used the area around Ross Bay and Beacon Hill Park...” (Turner, “Where has all the Clover Gone? A tribute to B.C. botanist T.C. Brayshaw.” Botanical Electronic News (BEN) #226, 2 July 1999)
No native grassland remains at Clover Point. After the arrival of white immigrants, native plant species “deteriorated and disappeared... in a spiraling downward cycle,” according to Dr. Turner.
Major developments on the Point--a rifle range, the loop road and a sewage pumping station--eradicated native plants. Dr. Brayshaw points out, “all pretense of preserving the native grassland has long since been abandoned... Some of this grass dates from extensive seeding following the construction of the underground sewage pumping station behind Clover Point.” (T.C. Brayshaw, “The State of the Wild Plant Communities of Beacon Hill Park,” January 15, 2001, p. 14) Only exotic species can withstand the current trampling, mowing, kite-flying and dog running at the Point.
Though official boundaries dividing the three Dallas Road waterfront parks are city streets, Dr. Brayshaw divides the waterfront according to vegetation cover. From a botanist’s perspective, the Central Segment (Beacon Hill Park) begins at Douglas Street and goes east only as far as the totem pole while the Eastern Segment stretches from the totem pole past Clover Point. Dr. Brayshaw explains why: “The original vegetation cover was a mosaic of coastal prairie grassland and moist deciduous groves. The steep seaward slopes extend along the whole length of this area. There are no deciduous groves in the eastern segment.” (Brayshaw, p. 10)
All three major points along the Dallas Road waterfront--Finlayson, Holland and Clover Points--were used by aboriginal people as defensive sites long before white settlers came to the region. Grant Keddie, Curator of Archaeology at the Royal B.C. Museum, reports an aboriginal defensive site was located “on the bluff at the northwest corner of Clover Point.” Keddie describes it as similar to the Holland Point defensive site, which was “located on the edge of a steep bluff with a semi-circular trench extending in from the sea bluff.” (Grant Keddie, “Native Indian Use of Beacon Hill Park,” RBCM Notes, Note #14/88, ISSN 0838-598x)
Historical accounts describe James Douglas, Capt. Grant and other Hudson’s Bay Company employees landing at Clover Point and walking through Beacon Hill Park to reach Fort Victoria. Their canoe crews took an alternate river route inland from Ross Bay, following a stream which emerged where the Empress Hotel now stands. "Lost Streams of Victoria,” a map with commentary by Jennifer Sutherst, describes that route:
The stream that the Empress hotel was built upon was unnamed and flowed from a wetland in the vicinity of Cook and Moss streets. This wetland was connected to another creek which ran into Ross Bay thus linking the bay with Victoria's inner harbour. Oral history indicates that the First Nations would use this waterway as an alternate route during heavy winter storms. During wet winter periods when the tides were high they would be able to paddle from Ross Bay to the inner harbour thereby avoiding the heavy weather on the outer coast. (Jennifer Sutherst, "Lost Streams of Victoria," May, 2003. South Islands Aquatic Stewardship Society, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.)
Shipwreck on Clover Point (1860)
The barque Glimpse ran aground near Clover Point on March 15, 1860. A British Colonist article reported the disaster:
About nine o’clock on Thursday night, the bark Glympse [sic], Gove, master, from San Francisco, struck on the rocks off Clover Point, a short distance beyond Beacon Hill. Exertions were immediately made to get her off; but it was soon ascertained that her bottom had received considerable injury, and that she was making water fast. The passengers--of which there were 80 Chinese--and crew were set to work at the pumps, but the vessel soon filled partially with water and went over on her beam-ends. The captain says he mistook the light at the entrance of the Victoria harbor for the Esquimalt light, and supposed when he had reached Clover Point that he was making the former. He also says there was no light at the Esquimalt entrance. (British Colonist, Saturday, March 17, 1860, p. 3)
Friday morning, Admiral Baynes ordered the Satellite to the scene. She arrived at one o’clock p.m. but could not assist due to high winds and rough seas. The newspaper concluded it was likely to be a total wreck if the gale continued overnight. The ship, owned by Samuel Price and Company, was identified as about one year old and insured for $16,000. The value of goods aboard was given at precisely $28,445.81, most of it not insured. The Hudson’s Bay Company was reported to have $3,000 worth of goods on board. It appeared most of the cargo could be saved and men worked Friday to offload the stores.
Lewis and Dryden’s authoritative Marine History of the Pacific Northwest got the date wrong, writing the Glimpse ran aground “in the fall” of 1859. The book stated the ship “was sold to Henry Roeder, who repaired her at Port Ludlow and operated her for a short time afterward.” A footnote added more information: “The bark Glimpse was built at Newburg, New York, in 1856. After being released from the rocks at Clover Point, she was put in the coasting trade, following it for thirteen years.” (Lewis & Dryden’s Marine History of the Pacific Northwest --An illustrated review of the growth and development of the maritime industry, from the advent of the earliest navigators to the present time, with sketches and portraits of a number of well known men. Edited by E. W. Wright. Antiquarian Press, Ltd. New York, 1961, p. 89)
Landmark Hotel above Clover Point (1865 to 1905)
Though not constructed directly on Clover Point, the nearby hotel and tavern built and operated by Henry Henley (often spelled Henly) in the 1800s was a significant feature in the Point’s history. Known for thirty-three years as Henley’s Hotel (sometimes called the Clover Point Hotel), it was renamed the Cliff House when Henley’s sons took over in 1892.
The exact date Henley leased fifteen acres of land overlooking Clover Point from James Douglas and constructed a two story building on the property is unclear. A newspaper announcement printed August 12, 1865 is proof the hotel was in business before that date. The notice stated Henley could no longer afford the $300 liquor license and the business would be operated in the future as a Temperance Hotel. (British Colonist, August 12,1865, p. 3) Two days later, August 14, another advertisement announced a Public Auction to sell Henley’s Hotel. (British Colonist, August 14,1865, p. 2) Despite those notices, Henley continued as owner-operator and sold liquor.
Years later, Henley’s elderly daughter, Mrs. W.H. Cox, described Henley family life above the Point. In 1951, she told newspaperman Jim Nesbitt:
"[The family had] 40 head of cattle...I used to run them along the cliffs of Beacon Hill Park...A ride into Government and Fort was a great treat...We rode through the Park past the big pits where they kept live bears." (Jim Nesbitt, “Old Homes and Families,” Daily Colonist, September 2, 1951, Magazine, p. 11)
Henry Henley died in 1892 at the age of 77. According to a Daily Colonist obituary, he had operated the hotel for 33 years. (Daily Colonist, January 9, 1892, p. 5) His sons renamed it “Cliff House.” Business increased after a rifle range was built on Clover Point in 1900. The Cliff House burned to the ground on November 24,1905. The Daily Colonist reported:
"The Cliff House was one of the oldest of the roadhouses in this part of the province and was erected in the sixties. Until about 12 years ago it was known as Henley’s Hotel and was a well-known resort among old-timers." (Daily Colonist, November 24, 1905, p. 2)
Archie H. Wills described the Cliff House location “on the outskirts of the farms in Fairfield and between what is now Dallas Road, between May and Howe Streets.” It was two stories high, with hitching posts and stables. Years after the Cliff House burned down, Wills purchased the property and built his home on that location. (Archie H. Wills, “Booze and Bullets Flew in Days of Cliff House,” Daily Colonist, Feb. 28, 1971, p. 12, 13)
Dallas Road extended (1900)
According to Archie Wills, about the time the rifle range was constructed, in 1900, “Dallas Road was continued from Cook Street east to Ross Bay Cemetery.”
Wills was born in Oak Bay in 1893 and died in 1988 at the age of 95. A 44 year employee of the Victoria Daily Times, he was managing editor from 1936 to 1951. Writing in 1971, he provided a first-hand account of Clover Point during those decades.
Clover Point Rifle Range (1900 to 1931)
“The Victoria Rifle Association launched a campaign to adapt Clover Point, from Cook Street eastward, to a rifle range,” Wills reported. Despite opposition, ten acres were fenced and work started on October 16, 1900.
"...butts were constructed, starting at 300 yards and stretching out to 1000 yards, which was almost to Cook Street. Extensive earthworks were built for the target areas, the highest and largest pile of dirt acting as a receptacle for spent bullets. Not all the bullets ended up in the bank, stray ones carrying on, well over the water, which caused boatmen to give the place a wide berth." (Archie H. Wills, “Booze and Bullets Flew in Days of Cliff House,” Daily Colonist, Feb. 28, 1971, p. 12)
In 1907, the Victoria Rifle Association, which staged frequent competitions with its Vancouver counterpart, complained about the site’s disadvantages. Victoria had only eight targets compared to Vancouver’s sixteen and the site was too windy for good target shooting. (Wills, p. 12)
As a cadet, Wills took part in shooting practice at the Point every Saturday morning. He described biking down Cook Street, “a rutted, muddy roadway with a large pear tree in the centre...”
Four-foot-square targets on iron frames stood on what is now the grassy area in the middle of the loop road. The old newspaper photo reproduced here shows eight targets lined up facing west. Shooters at the 1,000 foot range lay on the cliff west of the Point near Cook Street, facing southeast.
In 1967, a handwritten note by Park Administrator W. H. Warren described military target practice at Clover Point:
"During World War I, troops stationed at the ‘Willows” Fairground marched to Clover Point to practice shooting from the ranges to the butts on the point. H.Q. building was located just east of Linden Ave. and the whole area was fenced and topped with barbed wire. This did not last long and there were various openings made in the fence for residents to get to the beach." (Park Office files, April 28, 1967)
Warren did not mention the 800 military personnel camped in Beacon Hill Park in 1916-1917. They lived in wooden barracks and tents in the north end of the Park. Those soldiers undoubtedly marched to the Clover Point Rifle Range for target practice as well.
Warren’s note described soldiers practicing trench warfare along the Dallas Road waterfront:
“Between the ends of Cook and Marlborough St. were a series of trenches to train men in this form of warfare. These were... complete with duckboards... which were not finally filled in until after I started with the city in 1930.”
By 1923, Fairfield was becoming more populated and residents complained about the noise from the Clover Point Range and the danger to children and boaters. The Defence Department resisted closing the range even though the military had constructed a new range in Saanich. It took several years of effort by the City of Victoria before the Federal government agreed.
Several references in the City of Victoria archives detail the process. At their February 17, 1928 meeting, the Park Committee discussed a proposal for the City to take over the Clover Point Rifle Range for “park purposes.” However, the City wanted to avoid paying full expenses for cleanup, building repair and target dismantling at the Point. (CRS 76, 3B3) At a April 22, 1930 meeting, the Parks Committee decided to recommend to City Council that the City ask the Dominion Government for Clover Point “for park purposes.” (CRS 76 3B3-1 “Parks and Boulevards Committee Minutes”)
Park Administrator W. H. Warren’s 1931 Annual Report noted “The Clover Point Rifle Range was secured for a civic park on March 23, 1931, obtained on a long lease from the Dominion government.” (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1931)
Extensive clean-up was needed and took many years to complete. In 1931, Warren noted: “Trenches, left over from WW I training were filled in, brush and broom were removed. Wrecked cars dumped on the Point were removed by the Parks Department. (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1931)
Archie Wills reported a red caretaker’s residence at the foot of Linden Avenue was demolished, but gave no date. He noted residents could, at last, go to the beach at Clover Point and collect firewood, a major fuel for homes at the time.
Park Administrator W. H. Warren reported in 1932: “No work has been done on this waterfront park except to build several footpaths down the bank to the beach. (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1932)
In 1950, Warren’s Monthly report for November/ December, 1950, noted: “Clover Point Broom Clearance--$751.22" In 1951, the August/September Report included: “Waterfront--Need to extend landscaping on the Dallas Road waterfront from Beacon Hill Park to Ross Bay Cemetery.” Army huts on Clover Point were finally removed in 1952. Warren reported “Rough graded and seeding following removal of army huts” on the Point and recommended “continuing the hard surfaced path from Beacon Hill Park.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator,” 1952)
In his 1954 Annual Report, Warren wrote: “Area [of Clover Point] where the army huts used to be was graded and seeded. Soil was dumped behind the log retaining wall to improve the appearance of the bank. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1954)
The major challenge of removing butts, cleaning up and leveling the site was delayed until 1956. (See “Major Developments to 'improve' Clover Point” below)
Sikh cremations (pre-1920)
Archie Wills described funeral pyres constructed on Clover Point “years ago” by Victoria residents identified first as “Hindu” and then described as Sikh. Wills noted “bodies were cremated on the beach where ample wood was available, but sometimes the ceremony was carried out on the range itself.” He said six-foot log segments were used, criss-crossed to form the funeral pyre, with the body gently placed on top. (Archie H. Wills, “Booze and Bullets Flew in Days of Cliff House,” Daily Colonist, Feb. 28, 1971, p. 13)
[It was common at the time for whites to identify all East Indians as “Hindus.” Warren made the same error in his account of cremations. It is most likely the people involved were Sikhs.]
Warren wrote: “Clover Point was occasionally used for Hindu cremations--on a pile of cordwood up until about 1920--saw them as a youngster.” (Handwritten note in a file folder of Warren materials, initialed “W.H.W.” Dec. 10 1969)
Boathouse on Clover Point (1932-2010)
Unauthorized individual boathouses, built on the rocks at the end of the sea wall at Clover Point, were used until 1932 by local fishermen until a storm wiped them out. Park Administrator W. H. Warren reported in 1932: “The severe storm of December 22, 1932 destroyed eighteen boathouses, leaving only two standing. It also caused severe erosion along the foot of the bank varying from 5 to 20 feet deep.” (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1932) After the storm, the City of Victoria prohibited the fishermen from making repairs or rebuilding their destroyed boathouses. Instead, City Council agreed to lease an area to the fishermen to construct one new building to accommodate all their boats, on the condition they also supply boats to rent to the public. To accomplish this, the fishermen were incorporated under the Societies Act as the Clover Point Anglers Association. The City donated $250, supplied the labour for the construction of a water line from Dallas Road and also agreed to construct a permanent roadway from Dallas Road. The Association bought two boats for public rental in 1933 to satisfy the City’s demand that the boat house would be used for the benefit of the public.
In the photo above, H.R. Fletcher, founder and first president of the club, stands on the left in front of the original Clover Point Anglers Association boathouse, completed in 1933. According to current president of the club, Tom Vaida, the photo was probably taken in the late forties or very early 50's. The photo was provided by Bill Hocking, an original member of the club and Fletcher’s nephew. The 50' x 30' structure was built on pilings, visible in the photo. There was accommodation for 28 boats and a ramp with rails on which to lower boats into the water and to pull them back up.
Warren’s 1934 Annual Report noted a second building was completed on the Point, “a boathouse by Vancouver Island Lifeboat Association,” and that the Clover Point Angler’s Association installed electric poles to bring power to their building.” The City also placed “concrete seats... at strategic points at Clover Point.” (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1934)
When Clover Point was taken over by the Department of National Defense in 1939, the fishermen were allowed to continue using the boathouse though a letter in Parks Department files indicates the military was concerned about civilian use of Clover Point during wartime. A November 22, 1941 letter to Lt. Col. Hugh Allen at Work Point Barracks from the original President of the Clover Point Anglers Association, H.R. Fletcher, explained the Association had constructed the communal boathouse and also organized the Vancouver Island Life Boat Association to help boaters in distress. A Life-Boat House has been built under the Anglers’ Association lease, with agreement by the City. The writer said those fishing from the point were veterans of World War I and promised to “see and hear nothing” concerning current military activities. Fletcher claimed the Life Boat Association had saved children on rafts and rescued people in boats and ended his letter with a reference to the valuable role of civilians at Dunkirk. He recognized that “there may be times when the gate will be against us.” (Parks Department files)
After the war, the City signed a new agreement in 1947 with the Clover Point Anglers’ Association allowing them to retain their boathouse on the Point. However, on January 17, 1956, Warren recommended to the Parks Committee that the “City give the Vancouver Island Lifeboat Association 14 days to remove their boathouses.” Endorsed.(CRS 107 12 F 5) The original boat house burned down in the late 50's, according to Tom Vaida.
In 1994, when the Clover Point Anglers’ Association applied to City Council for a new lease for their boathouse on Clover Point, a March 9 letter from Don Anderson to John Plantinga reviewed the history of the boathouse. Anderson noted the original lease was given in 1933 on the stipulation boats were available for hire to public and two boats were purchased by the Association in 1933 for $110. These were sold in 1934 for $80 after collecting only $0.75 for boat rental. There have been no boats for hire since. In 1994, the Association had a membership of 26 regular and 15 associate members. On November 24, 1994, City Council approved the lease renewal. The yearly rental cost was not included in the minutes. (City of Victoria Council Minutes, November 24, 1994)
On August 15, 2007, a long-time Clover Point Anglers' Association member explained the group and the boathouse was still going strong. The boathouse, located on the east side of the point, was full to capacity with 25 small aluminum boats and there was a long waiting list of boaters hoping for space
Military use of Clover Point during World War II
Clover Point was temporarily taken over by the DND in 1939. Warren reported: “Clover Point which was leased from the Crown was taken over by the Dominion Department of National Defence early in the fall.” (CRS 108, Report of the Superintendent of Parks, 1939) The Department of National Defence also retained Holland Point and water frontage between South Turner and Lewis Streets. After the war, these parks were returned to the City.
A book by Ronald Lovatt provides some details about military use of Clover Point: “A huge searchlight was mounted on what is now the road that circles the point.” It was turned on every night and crews manning the light were housed in barracks on the Point. The rest of the shore maintained a blackout. Caption wording for the photo on page 96 is “Camouflaged searchlight emplacement at Clover Point c. 1941." Those two references indicate one searchlight was erected.
However, a map in the same book titled “Coast Defences 1939-1956,” lists two searchlights for Clover Point. (R. Lovatt, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot: A History of the Victoria-Equimalt Coast Artillery Defences, 1878-1956, published by the Rodd Hill Friends Society, p. 96, 98)
Veterans’ Families Live in Barracks on Clover Point After the War
According to Victoria artist Marilyn T. Welch, soldiers manning the search light during World War II were housed in "about six" long barracks buildings on Clover Point. "After the war, the army barracks were used as emergency housing for veterans' families." Her family lived in the former Mess Hall for about a year and a half. The barracks was divided into “bedrooms and a parlour” and featured “a huge stove at one end.” When she "found the triangle that the soldiers used to signal the men to meals, my mom started using it to call us to dinner.”
Welch and her sister attended Sir James Douglas School. She remembers playing on the beach and “in the camouflaged bunkers that were built into the point for the operation of the Clover Point search light.” The former army barracks were drafty in winter: “When winter came and the winds blew, my mother had to close off the part of the barracks that faced the sea because it was too hard to heat. The families burnt driftwood in stoves to heat their homes.” (Welch provides photos and a description of life on Clover Point at http://marilyntwelch.blogspot.com/)
City of Victoria granted a 99 year lease (1947)
When Clover Point was returned to the City of Victoria after World War II, it was leased from the Department of National Defence at $1.00 per year for 99 years. W. H. Warren reported: “A 99 year lease of Clover Point was obtained from the Dominion Government as from June 1, 1947.”(CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Annual Report of the Park Administrator,” 1947)
A December 10, 1969 letter from E. B. Armstrong, Deputy Minister of National Defence to the City of Victoria noted “the administrative cost of collecting these annual charges are not warranted by the revenue obtained...” Armstrong had previously suggested the city make a “total and final payment” of $77 for the balance of the Clover Point lease and a sewer line payment of $25. This apparently had been done, because the letter concluded the City of Victoria was paid in full until the year 2046. (Parks Dept. files)
City control of beaches (1946 and 1994)
Parks Administrator W. H. Warren’s 1946 Annual Report stated: “The boundaries of the City were extended to include the waterfront between the shoreline and low water mark to enable the City to exercise full control and supervision of the beaches along the Dallas Road waterfront.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 3, “Report of the Park Superintendent,” 1946)
In 1994, during controversy over constructing a rock berm at Horseshoe Bay, the City discovered it was responsible for the beach above the high-water mark, but that tidal areas below that mark were the responsibility of the B. C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks and Canada Fisheries. The City had dumped tonnes of rock below the high-water mark without approval from either the provincial or the federal governments. City work crews were required to remove all rock dumped below the high-water mark, Rock remained on the beach above that line. (Vancouver Sun, August 2, 1994)
Dallas Road Park benches vandalized (1952)
In February, 1952, new benches were installed from Cook Street to Clover Point as part of a program to beautify the area between Dallas Road and the cliffs. The area was cleared of brush, harrowed and seeded to grass. During a weekend in March, the concrete bases of six of the seven newly installed Park benches were destroyed or damaged. Two benches were uprooted, base and all, and one of them was toppled over the 50-foot cliff. Superintendent W. H. Warren said each base would cost $60 to replace. The flagpole halyard on Beacon Hill was cut four different times in three months by vandals, as well, costing $200 in repairs. (Daily Colonist, March 4, 1952, p. 11)
Beach log clearing (1954)
W. H. Warren wrote in his November, 1954 Monthly Report: “Waterfront: Clover Point to Holland Point Log clearing. Initiative most successful east of Finlayson Point. Beach there has been site of many beach fires during the summers due to density of logs...Also succeeded in burning some oil soaked debris from oil from a recent grounding of a vessel off of Oak Bay.” (Parks Department files)
The 1954 Annual Report, included a paragraph on “Clover Point to Holland Point” which stated “Beaches cleared of logs by burning them. If program is continued for a few years the beaches will be cleared of most of the undesirable logs and debris.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1954)
Warren reported a granite monument was placed on Clover Point in 1954: “Historical monuments placed at these two points [Clover Point and Holland Point].” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1954) However, Warren also reported a marker was erected on the Point two years later in his 1956 Annual Report. He included the statement in a report about the major Capital City Grant “beautification” developments undertaken in 1956-1957. (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1956, p. 9-10) It is possible the monument was erected in 1954 but was listed again as one of the Grant projects “improvements.”
There is only one granite monument on Clover Point. It states:
"This ten acre park extends west to Beacon Hill Park. James Douglas who became first Governor of British Columbia landed here in 1842 to select a site for the Hudson’s Bay Company fort built in Victoria in 1843. It was used for a rifle range 1900-1931, leased in 1947 for 99 years from the Crown by the City of Victoria."
City garbage dumped in sea returns to Dallas Road beaches (1908-1958)
In 1908, the City of Victoria needed a better garbage disposal system. Many open dumps around the city smelled terrible, burned constantly and attracted rats and gulls. When an incinerator system was declared impractical and too expensive, City Council decided to dump city garbage in the ocean.
For the next fifty years, municipal workers loaded garbage scows at the city’s garbage wharf at the bottom of Swift Street (near the Blue Bridge), towed the scows south into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and dumped the garbage into the sea. The distance specified in 1908 was “past Brotchie Ledge.” The cost of a “scow system” the first year was be 25 cents per ton. (Daily Colonist, May 12, 1908, p. 2)
Dumping garbage in the ocean solved the open dump problems on land but created a new problem: city garbage piled up on area beaches. Prevailing winds from the south returned huge quantities of floating garbage back to the shore. (In 1953, a city garbage official stated a whopping 80% of the garbage dumped did not sink.)
Crushing machines of various kinds were installed in the following decades, always with the hope of sinking more garbage so less would float back onto the beaches. In 1941, Ald. Ed Williams predicted great success from the new crusher he had championed:
"...the barge should hold almost twice as much as it did when the garbage was tipped without any processing...and It has proved very efficient in smashing bottles and crushing and should...remove much of the buoyancy of the refuse and materially reduce if not eliminate its return to city beaches.” (Victoria Daily Times, February 7, 1941, p. 13)
Three years later, a 1944 Victoria Daily Times editorial makes it clear that garbage on the beaches had not been eliminated or even improved. The newspaper sarcastically suggested the city could save money by dumping the garbage directly on the beaches in the first place. The writer noted visitors and residents flocking to Dallas Road beaches to admire the “beautiful vista” of a “glistening sea” also viewed the “glimmer” of discarded cans, the “glitter” of bottles and a colourful array of orange, grapefruit and lemon peels.
"For years Victorians have been putting their refuse in galvanized cans, where it is picked up, by hard-working men, emptied into trucks, hauled to the garbage wharf and placed on a scow. The barge goes a short distance to sea, dumps its load and returns. And so, too, does a lot of garbage...Some have...suggested the middleman be eliminated and garbage be dumped initially on the beaches.” (Victoria Daily Times, March 22, 1944, p. 4)
In 1946, once again a better garbage crusher was touted as the answer. Mayor Percy George said, “The only way this unhealthy nuisance can be avoided is to crush everything so that it will sink. I am opposed to any suggestion that garbage be placed in a city dump...” (Victoria Daily Times, March 26, 1946, p. 11) In May, 1946, Ald. J. D. Hunter thought if garbage were dumped at a greater distance it would not return to the shore. (Daily Colonist, May 11, 1946, p. 11)
In July, 1948, a new crusher was in operation and victory was declared. City Works Committee Chairman Hunter announced the new crusher was” better than 90% effective in breaking bottles and puncturing cans so that they will not float.” (Daily Colonist, July 26, 1949, p. 3) [The same article mentioned another pollution problem at Clover Point. Sewage was polluting the beach and a “device for breaking up solid parts of sewage” was needed. (See sewage section below)]
A series of Daily Colonist articles in 1953 documented the daily dumping of garbage by the City of Victoria into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Reporter Roy Baines wrote:
"At the garbage wharf, 8,600 cubic yards are dumped, put through the crusher and hauled out to sea each month... Barges, each holding about 70 cubic yards, are hauled to sea by the Island Tug and Barge Co. two or three Times a day depending on volume. (Daily Colonist, March 1, 1953, p. 1)
Baines noted few cities in North America choose “dumping at sea” to dispose of garbage because “the garbage comes home again to city beaches.” (Daily Colonist, March 4, 1953, p. 1)
Some residents complained garbage scows barely got past the Ogden Point breakwater before dumping their load, but a company spokesman for Island Tug and Barge, claimed scows were pulled the required distance. Their contract with the city stipulated scows be towed “not less than 15 cables (about 1.7 miles) in a southerly direction from a line joining Macaulay Point and Brotchie Ledge light.”
Even if garbage was dumped four or five miles out, floating material would arrive back on Victoria’s beaches “if the winds were right,” the company spokesman said. “If we sat around waiting for the right wind before we sent the scow out, what would we do with the stuff piling onto the wharf every hour? It’s impractical.” (Daily Colonist, March 4, 1953, p. 1)
An official in the City’s garbage department said the newest crusher installed at the city’s garbage wharf at the end of Swift Street near the Blue Bridge resulted in fewer cans and bottles arriving back on the beaches. Before the new crusher, he said 80% of the garbage did not sink when dumped. After being crushed, he claimed 80% of the material sank immediately and another 5% sank in a few minutes. The remaining 15% was “uncrushable” material that floated. He said: “A piece of grapefruit skin will float for months.” The same official claimed all garbage on the beaches was not from the City because ships threw their garbage into the ocean, too. (Daily Colonist, March 4, 1953, p. 1)
Favorite swimming and sunning beaches like Horseshoe Bay and Gonzales Bay as well as the beaches west of Clover Point and Holland Point continued to be littered with garbage. Long-time resident Roy Fletcher remembers garbage was particularly heavy in Ross Bay. Esquimalt resident Roy Wellwood measured “a pile of garbage 300 feet long, three feet wide and six inches deep” on a beach near the foot of Lampson Street one March day in 1953. “I’ve been watching garbage on beaches around here for years,” he explained. He described bottles, orange and grapefruit skins and other vegetable matter. Cans showing evidence of having been through a crusher were evidence the beach mess was not from ships. Wellwood said it was definitely City of Victoria garbage. (Daily Colonist, March 7, 1953, p. 1)
In March, 1954, City Council discussed plans to replace ocean dumping with a new sanitary landfill method. Dr. J. L. Gayton, medical officer of the city, said the change would eliminate garbage being washed ashore on city beaches. Mayor Claude Harrison said the downtown garbage wharf was “a filthy mess” and City Engineer Cyril Jones thought it would be abandoned. However, protests by residents near the selected landfill site delayed the change and it was decided to continue dumping at sea until at least the end of 1954.
In 1957, after more heated debate on disposal alternatives, the City continued dumping at sea. Ideas for improving the scow system included a new garbage disposal plant, rebuilding the garbage wharf at the foot of Swift Street, purchasing new self-dumping barges and another incinerator to burn more garbage. Yet another crusher would compact the remainder into “nuggets like soft concrete” which would sink immediately. (Victoria Daily Times, November 5, 1957, p. 7)
In 1958, dumping at sea ended at last. By June, a temporary land disposal system was in operation. For six months, garbage would fill an area at Mud Bay while a more permanent fill site was being prepared. Island Tug and Barge, the company which had towed city garbage to sea for decades, owned and was developing the Mud Bay property. The Daily Colonist noted the City was truly “rid of the floating garbage problem.” Mayor Percy Scurrah said, “I am very happy that we have reached the end of garbage drifting back on the beaches.” (Daily Colonist, June 25,1958, p. 13)
[In the 1960s, open garbage dumps on land combined with burning and salvage was the city’s disposal system. Those dumps provoked complaints similar to those received prior to the adoption of the ocean dumping system in 1908: “Foul air, a ‘profoundly obnoxious’ smell, rats, flies, and the dangers of typhoid, typhus, tapeworm, dysentery, diarrhea and cholera...” (Daily Colonist, May 23, 1968, p. 27) In 1968, the CRD selected the “sanitary landfill” method in which garbage would be regularly covered with soil. The city garbage wharf area continued to be used as a transfer point for garbage destined for the Hartland landfill site until it was closed in 1986.]
Major Developments to “improve” Clover Point (1956)
A $50,000 Capital City Grant from the provincial government was earmarked for the improvement of Clover Point, the Victoria Daily Times reported in 1955. [Warren later said the amount was $75,000.] A similar capital grant had been used to create a sea-view parking area at Holland Point the year before. (Victoria Daily Times, February 7, 1955)
Under the topic, “Clover Point Improvements,” Warren recommended to the Park Committee on July 11, 1956 that the Department of National Defence be notified that the “City will remove the butts and that it be requested to remove the concrete buildings constituting a Search Light Battery and install the underground vault.” (CRS 107 12 F 5)
Permission was granted by Defence Minister Ralph Campney to proceed with the “beautification of Clover Point,” Victoria Mayor Percy Scurrah announced in August, 1956. The Daily Colonist reported: “The Minister gave permission to level the old rifle-range butts, place wiring underground and to demolish two searchlight emplacements and the old powerhouse hut and power terminal hut. A circular drive with an oiled surface will be completed around the point.” (Daily Colonist, August 14, 1956)
An answer from the Commandant of the Esquimalt Garrison addressed to Mayor Scurrah, dated September 17, 1956, stated the DND had no objection to the City of Victoria carrying out the proposed “Beautification Programme” at Clover Point. Four points were agreed:
1. To place underground the present overhead power lines to the sewer outfall.
2. Demolish the sandstone wall used to protect markers on the old rifle range and to level the old bullet stop.
3. Demolish the Engine Power house and both searchlight emplacements.
4. Remove old cable terminal building and transfer existing lines to adjoining cable test pit.
The rifle butts and targets were subsequently dismantled by the Parks Department. The huge earth banks behind the targets were, Archie Wills wrote, “a lead mine.” Large sieves were used to sift out bullets and the recovered lead was sold. (Wills, p. 13)
The Clover Point project began in 1956 and continued in 1957. Warren reported: “Construction of a road to [Clover] Point with parking for 100 cars was begin in the fall, following the removal of the old rifle butts. A ramp to the beach was constructed on the west side of the point. Completion of the work will be in 1957.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1956)
The following year, Warren reported: “Improvements under the third and final Capital City Grant of $75,000 for Clover Point and Dallas Road were completed. This included construction of a loop road with parking area at Clover Point complete with ornamental lighting, a 5 foot hard-surfaced path along the cliff from Clover Point to Cook Street, and completion of a ramped beach approach near Cook Street and Dallas Road, and a ramp to the beach on the west side of Clover Point.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1957) The loop road shown in the 2004 photo above looks almost identical to the photo printed in the Victoria Daily Times just after it was constructed in 1956. The newspaper noted the Point was being “hard-surfaced and landscaped as a viewpoint parking area.” (Victoria Daily Times, November 5, 1956, p.15)
Centennial bonfire and fireworks at Clover Point 1962
The City of Victoria’s 100th anniversary week-long celebrations culminated on Thursday night, August 2, 1962, with a massive bonfire at Clover Point. Despite heavy rains, City police estimated at least 3,000 people drove in more than 600 cars to the Point. At 10:30 p.m., half an hour ahead of schedule, the fire was ignited and in minutes was a huge beacon. “The large crowd sang, danced and steamed in front of the huge blaze while waiting for the fireworks to begin,” the Victoria Daily Times reported. A planned matching bonfire in Port Angeles could not be seen. “The fireworks began at 11:50 with flares, salutes and rockets of every description, over 110 pounds in weight and costing $500.” (Victoria Daily Times, August 3, 1961, p. 1)
Waves pounded the bases of the cliffs and rain loosened soil above the beaches for thousands of years before white settlers came to the area. This natural erosion continues along Dallas Road despite the City of Victoria’s desire to stop it.
Stairways, pathways, berms, reefs and breakwaters constructed by the city have often unintentionally contributed to erosion, even though the projects were designed “to stop” or “reduce” erosion. Some details from a very long history of Clover Point erosion and efforts to control it are presented here.
In January, 1934. The Daily Colonist reported: “Some twenty feet has been cut away by tide, storm and heavy rains” at Clover Point. (Daily Colonist, January 7, 1934, p. 1, 3)
Warren reported in 1953: “Clover Point: Big storm caused serious erosion on the southwest side of the point for distance of 450'. Log cribbing constructed by engineering department to protect it.” (CRS 108, 12 F 5, file 4, “Report of the Park Administrator, 1953)
In 1967, the Capital District Improvement Commission proposed a 1,800 foot concrete walk from Cook Street to Clover Point. City Engineer Mr. James Garnett said the purpose of the promenade and cliff walk was to prevent erosion of the cliffs. He said erosion at Holland Point was “an emergency measure...erosion is not as bad between Cook and Clover Point but we want to stop it now before it gets too serious.”
Eileen Learoyd, a reporter with the Daily Colonist, advocated “preserving what was left of the natural shoreline to keep our famous Dallas Road cliffs wild looking.” In a series of articles, she opposed the city's plan to place a path almost at water level with a wall along the bank and asked for reader support. Letters protesting the plan flowed into the newspaper office. One writer described the previous concrete walk constructed by the city between Paddon Street to Boyd as “a road wide enough for a truck” and said one like it should not be constructed at Clover Point. (Eileen Learoyd, “Waves of Protest Roll In,” Daily Colonist, May 9, 1967, p. 21)
Two days later, the Daily Colonist delivered 550 letters protesting the concrete promenade to the Mayor’s office. (Daily Colonist, May 11,1967, p. 27) By the City Council meeting that night, 580 letters had been tallied and Council decided to postpone the project. Ald. Hugh Ramsey said the work was necessary to prevent erosion of the steep Dallas Road bank. He was displeased a public appeal resulted in an “out of hand response” and could possibly thwart “a necessary technical improvement.” (Daily Colonist, May 12,1967, p. 23)
In 1973, City Council considered enacting a by-law against children digging caves in the steep, sandy bank at Clover Point. The Parks and Recreation Committee recommended this action because the digging was “seriously eroding” the waterfront. Ald. Alf Hood confessed he used to dig caves there himself. “We used to go down to the beach, playing hookey from school, but it seems that was a little different. It appears there is a massive assault on the banks now.” (Daily Colonist, May, 18, 1973, p. 11) A Daily Colonist photo printed September 2, 1977 shows a sign standing by the cliff with the warning: “Digging in sea front banks prohibited. Parks By-law 2390.”
In 1976, the Parks Department instructed the engineering department to investigate which areas along the half-mile waterfront between Cook Street and Clover Point were most endangered by erosion. City engineer John Sansom said erosion was caused by waves pounding at the base of the cliffs and by rain loosening the soil on top. He said a drainage system would eliminate the problem, but a study was needed to establish were the drain tiles should be placed. (Daily Colonist, April 16, 1976, p. 21)
University of Victoria geography professor Dr. Harold Foster wrote in the “Western Geographical Series” that cracks in cliff-tops south of Douglas and Cook Streets indicated where landslides would occur. Foster noted a stairway to the beach and part of the cliff-top path south of Cook Street on the seaward side of a surface crack encouraged pedestrian use of a location “where large scale cliff failure is inevitable...Their relocation would seem expedient.” (Victoria Times, August 12, 1976, p. 1, 2)
In response, the city announced plans to spend up to $50,000 to slow crumbling of the cliff face along Dallas Road. City engineer John Sansom said this would involve a drainage system to keep surface water from accumulating in the upper soil levels. (Daily Colonist, August 13, 1976, p. 11)
In October, City Council recommended a shoreline geological survey be conducted by Thurber Consultants, Ltd. to assess the problem and find solutions. The stretch of cliff between Clover Point and Douglas Street was of particular concern. (Victoria Times, October 22, 1976, p. 21)
A year later, Sansom said the erosion problem was “slight,” an average loss of three to four inches a year, and did not require construction of a million dollar sea wall. He said Dallas Road was safe “for 200 years.” He recommended surface drainage be undertaken west of Paddon Ave and pathway benches be moved from the cliff top and vegetation for the cliffs continue to be provided and suggested careful monitoring of cliffs from Paddon (Holland Point) to Clover Point. (Daily Colonist, September 2, 1977, p. 21)
The Victoria Times wrote the rate of “four inches a year” erosion was “alarming” because “nature is chomping away on the city’s favorite promenade.” (Victoria Times, September 2, 1977, p. 4) In November, 1978, the Parks Department approved a project below the Paddon Avenue (see Holland Point History).
By 1983, after the most destructive winter storms in ten years, Sansom warned City Council in May that Dallas Road could be lost in “maybe 100 years” if erosion was not stopped. He showed slides of high waves and logs battering the cliffs and warned preserving the cliffs was an on-going project. “There’s no such thing as a permanent sea wall.” (Times Colonist, May 6, 1983, p. B 8) Sansom said the Clover Point to Holland Point waterfront area needed major rebuilding and shoring. He estimated work would cost $3 million dollars. He recommended the City hire an expert in coastal erosion and seawall construction and a hydraulic expert. The shallow cliffs east of Clover Point had been washed away in winter storms. Most expensive to repair were areas of cliff from Clover Point to Holland Point. (Times Colonist, May 25, 1983, p. B 1)
In 1986, Ald. Janet Baird organized a brainstorming meeting of marine experts to discuss the coastal erosion problem in August. She said the Dallas Road waterfront was disappearing at a rate of one foot a year. At that rate, the scenic drive could be underwater by the middle of the 21st century. “We want everyone to throw in their wildest ideas and see what we come up with,” Baird said. One idea was to sink huge rocks offshore to form reefs. (Times Colonist, August 9, 1986, p. D 1)
Those attending the meeting agreed unanimously the best answer was an underwater breakwater constructed from Ogden Point to the east side of Ross Bay. This would stop erosion of the Dallas Road waterfront by interrupting and slowing the force of the waves. It would also create an underwater marine park with fish and shellfish living in the crevices of the boulders. Baird thought the top of the breakwater material would show above the surface of the water only at low tide. She wanted the project undertaken within a year. (Times Colonist, August 20,1986, p. B 1) City Council directed John Sansom to prepare a report on the submerged artificial reef idea. Ald. Baird said “the increased rate of recession of the cliffs between Finlayson Point and Clover Point is becoming serious.” (Times Colonist, August 30, 1986, p. D 14)
In the midst of the 1986 debate on another major cliff erosion prevention scheme, Eileen Learoyd reviewed the protest she had spearheaded nineteen years earlier with her 1967 articles in the Daily Colonist. Learoyd hoped the city could learn from mistakes made in 1967 when working on the cliffs south of Paddon. The engineer had bulldozed native vegetation holding the bank, and “sent machines down the scalped bank to construct an 18-foot-wide concrete and macadam top road along the shore, propped up by huge, jagged rocks.” The area had been “a unique haven” with a sandy beach enjoyed by sunbathers and barefoot children. After the work, the beach was “artificially barren.” In 1986, it was still a disaster area: “Today, monstrous paving cuts the beach in half. Ankle-breaking boulders fill the few yards left on the ocean side of the road.” Instead of a pleasant footpath, it is a “highway for trucks.”
Learoyd warned that a “wall in the wrong place can actually start erosion.” She advocated work on a small scale. She said the City of Victoria should not allow the “happy bulldozing brigade” to work again. (Times Colonist, September 11,1986, A 4)
In November, city engineer John Sansom suggested using truck and automobile tires to build a reef instead of more expensive “traditional rock and rubble.” (Times Colonist, November 4, 1986, p. B1) In December, an article describing the undermining of the Ross Bay concrete seawall after winter storms, stated the cost of a long breakwater from Ogden Point past Ross Bay was estimated to be $9 million. The idea of using tires for a long submerged breakwater was still being considered (Times Colonist, December 2, 1986, p. B 1)
In November, 1987, several short breakwaters were approved instead. The first would be at the foot of Cook Street about 100 metres offshore. Each reef was expected to cost $100,000. It was to be visible only at low tide. The velocity of the winter waves was expected to be reduced, slowing the erosion. (Times Colonist, November 20, 1987, B 1)
A new road was constructed along the beach at Clover Point in March, 1988. “After heavy seas last month formed caverns in the Dallas Road cliffs, the city stabilized cliffs and built a terrace along the bottom,” the newspaper reported. City engineer John Sansom said it was necessary to protect people because large chunks of the cliff were falling. Neighbours called the road “ugly” and “unnecessary.” Sansom claimed the absence of logs on the beaches increased erosion. Logs “dampened the wave action,” he said. (Times Colonist, March 9, 1988, C 10)
An “shoreline management expert” from Seattle, Wolf Bauer, said the city's reef plans were a mistake. “Reefs are not going to do much good” and might actually contribute to further erosion. He had been invited to speak by the Sierra Club, the James Bay Community Project and the Fairfield Community Association. He predicted within three years the roadway and the rip-rap supporting it would be seriously damaged by wave action. He said rip-rap will “just eat out the sand more quickly than before because the waves will create a churning action” behind the large boulders. He assessed the Dallas Road situation as “a starving beach...feeding on itself.” He said beaches need to be fed a certain amount of gravel and it must be the right size. (Times Colonist, May 7, 1988, D 18)
The city stuck with their plan. Ald. Geoff Young hoped nice sand beaches would be the result of the reefs, and claimed “Bauer is keen on gravel of the grapefruit or watermelon size...” (Times Colonist, May 18, 1988, D 12) A letter from a Sierra Club member corrected Young’s statement. Eve Howden said Bauer never advocated that type of gravel. Instead, he advocated “gravel of the same size already on the beach,” about one to three inches. (Times Colonist, May 29,1988, A 4) An article from Wolf Bauer in June made the same point on size of gravel, and said “It is wishful thinking that such a reef rubble can do better than what the best of existing natural reefs have done to slow down cliff erosion.” He said there was a natural low-cost alternative to rip-rap rubble. “There simply is not enough gravel in the Dallas Road beach system to create or maintain a protective backshore--so why not give nature a boost?” The gravel beach could include dunegrass helping to protect it. (Times Colonist, June 15, 1988, A 4) In February, 1989, the City said the first reef near Clover Point would go ahead.
In 1991, city engineer John Sansom called for the City to find $3 million to stop erosion on the Dallas Road cliffs. Sansom said the cliffs between Cook Street and Clover Point are “a very precious piece of Victoria.” He said, “We lose about a foot a year, which if you multiply it by 25 years, is a hell of a lot.” (Times Colonist, June 3, 1991, A 3)
Hang-gliders allowed (1979, 2004)
In 1979, the Parks Committee decided hang-gliders could continue jumping off the cliffs along Dallas Road near Cook Street. The Police Department had recommended gliders be banned but Ian Vantreight, representing the Hang-gliding Association of B.C., said the police had never discussed the situation with his group. He persuaded the Committee the police were misinformed about the dangers of the sport. (Times, June 19, 1979, p. 9)
In recent years, parasailing, as shown in these 2004 photos, has replaced hang-gliding along the cliffs.
Sewage pumping station at Clover Point (1975-2005)
City of Victoria sewage was first piped to Clover Point 113 years ago. In 1892, the first sewer line made of bricks was built beneath Dallas Road to Clover Point. That outfall pipe extended just three feet below the low water mark. A sewer pipe has been in continuous operation at Clover Point ever since.
Consultants hired to evaluate “heritage resources” in Beacon Hill Park and along Dallas Road in 2004 did not include the sewer line as a "heritage resource". However, applying the criteria used in the consultants' report earns the original brick sewer line an “Excellent” rating in at least one category. According to their evaluation criteria, an “Excellent” rating is assigned to features aged “Pre-contact to 1899.” The sewer line installation in 1892 fits that category. It is older than many features pronounced historically significant, including Burns Monument (erected in 1900, it earns a lesser “Very Good” rating). The Beacon Hill Park Heritage Landscape Management Plan, presented to the City in 2004 by Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Ltd., included two other categories in which the sewer line might rate an Excellent: the “Community Value” category (a landmark recognized by the community) and the “Integrity” category (retention of original character through time).
The Clover Point sewer outfall is mentioned occasionally in news articles through the decades. In July, 1948, a Daily Colonist article about garbage on the beaches included the observation that sewage was seriously polluting the beach at Clover Point. The report stated a “device for breaking up solid parts of sewage” was needed. (Daily Colonist, July 26, 1949, p. 3)
A 1975 Daily Colonist editorial recalled “the first  outfall was built with its opening a mere three feet below the low water mark...pollution of the beaches is an increasing menace.” (Daily Colonist, September 18, 1975, p. 4) The old brick sewer pipe was mentioned as recently as 2004. It was still in use but needed to be replaced. (Times Colonist, November 1, 2004, p. B 1,2) Victorians interested in heritage preservation did not rise up to protect the old sewer line.
In the 1970s, the Capital Regional District (CRD) decided to build a sewage pumping station on Clover Point to “correct the disgraceful conditions.” The Victoria City Council’s Public Works Committee was informed in September, 1975, of CRD plans to bar public access while about 30,000 yards of fill was excavated and stored on the site during construction. The Committee had earlier rejected the plan on the grounds the “area’s aesthetic appeal would be spoiled.” (Victoria Times, Sept. 16, 1975, p. 15)
A Daily Colonist editorial two days later noted “aesthetic damage” at Clover Point had been going on for over 83 years and concluded a temporary “eyesore” was acceptable. The paper endorsed the new plan to alleviate pollution: ...a sewer line [will run] 6,500 feet into off-shore currents with a pumping station activating it on the point [sending] 10 million gallons of sewage, including the McMicking Point outfall’s four million gallons daily contribution to Oak Bay beaches, to safe dispersal, along the lines of the new Macaulay Point diffuser outfall.(Daily Colonist, September 18, 1975, p. 4)
The sewage pumping station would be hidden in the grassy cliff behind Clover Point with only the doors visible, CRD engineer Norman Howard assured residents in July, 1976. “As far as Victorians are concerned they will simply be gaining an additional 50 feet of parkland out there.” The construction contract included a new seawall built about seven feet above the average water level. (Colonist, July 18, 1976, p. 11)
The construction generated little public outcry. Fairfield Community Group spokesman Sydney Langhelt said, “We all know that we have to have sewage disposal, and we have urged our government to get on with it.” (Daily Colonist, July 18, 1976, p. 11)
The City had not requested a grant to extend the existing easement from the owner of the property, the Department of National Defence. City officials had apparently forgotten the parkland was leased. When asked belatedly for permission, the DND replied a grant would cost about one millions dollars and involve a six month approval process. To avoid those two requirements, the CRD decided to run the pipe directly out into the Strait from the Ross Bay side of Clover Point in a dogleg to reach the original discharge point. That change would add about $75,000 to the project’s cost.
In May, 1977, CRD engineer Norman Howard informed the City that Clover Point would be closed to the public during construction of the pumping station and the outfall and until the area was reseeded and restored. The planned completion date was changed to December, 1977. [The Point was not open to the public until May, 1978.] (Daily Colonist, May 5, 1977, p. 6)
The Victoria Daily Times described the nearly-completed pumping station in October as “a whopping concrete blockhouse tucked discreetly into the landscape, a project which has closed the point to the public for the past 13 months.” The newspaper stated the “three-story” station was “mostly underground.” It had a “decorative stone wall..and a curved concrete seawall.” The construction cost about $3.3 million. Inside were three bright yellow pumps, capable of sending 12,000 to 14,000 gallons per minute, green pipes and orange airducts. The only treatment at Clover Point provided at the station was to “chop up solids.” This was done with a screen which caught the solids and a roller sliced up whatever was caught against the screen. The possibilities of motor noise and sewage smells worried some neighbours, but officials assured them the motors and pumps were insulated in the bunker and the station had a “scrubber tower to deodorize the air before it is vented.” (Victoria Daily Times, October 1, 1977, p. 23)
The 6,900 foot outfall pipe planned to carry raw sewage far into Juan de Fuca Strait was never completed. Strong currents and the buoyancy of the plastic pipe caused a weld fracture in August when the first section of pipe was being towed. By October, an expert advised that the pipe needed up to six times more weight than originally specified to hold it in place against tidal and wave action. (Colonist, October 6, 1977, p.11) By November only 1,000 feet were in place.
In January, 1978, a page one Daily Colonist headline read, “Clover Point: Only lawyers, seagulls happy.” Delays, contract problems and expense overruns led the Daily Colonist to label the Clover Point outfall “a multi-million dollar fiasco.” The original pipe design would not withstand current velocities and wave action and waves scoured gaps under the first section of pipe laid. The pumping station was completed and connected to the existing outfall. Five million gallons of sewage a day was dumped daily just 1,000 feet offshore. (Daily Colonist, January 20, 1978, p. 1,2)
In May, landscaping and roadways were complete, and Clover Point was reopened to the public. (Daily Colonist, May 13,1978, p. 29)
With only 1,000 feet of the plastic outfall pipe laid, the CRD had 5,000 feet of unusable polyethylene pipe on their hands, purchased in 1977 for $84 a foot. The original contractor was paid for 1,000 feet of installed outfall pipe and a new contractor was hired to install another 3,500 feet of coated steel pipe. (Daily Colonist, July 10, 1980, p. 1,2) That work was completed in 1980. The originally planned 6,900 foot length was never achieved. In 2005, the pipe length remains at 4,500 feet.
This November, 2005 photo by N. Ringuette shows the outfall sign, the point’s east shoreline
covered with tons of concrete and, in the distance, the pumping station set into the Dallas Road bluff.
In 1983, the CRD continued developing a ten kilometre east coast interception pipeline system to divert sewage from five existing beach outfalls in Oak Bay and Saanich to terminate at the Clover Point outfall. Though designed to handle a sewage flow of 75 cubic feet per second, the outfall was disposing of only 11 cfs with only 18 of the 55 diffuser ports open in 1986. It had the capacity to handle all east coast sewage. (Times Colonist, April 9,1986, A 4) Despite setbacks and controversy, the east coast line was completed in 1991. (The other major trunk sewage system in the region terminated at Macauley Point.)
Controversy continued on dumping raw sewage into the Strait. Environmentalists and others, “expert” reports in hand, advocated secondary sewage treatment. The CRD commissioned reports from different “experts” and concluded treatment of sewage was unnecessary. Where new treatment plants would be built was another controversial topic. Both Esquimalt's Macauley Point and Victoria's Clover Point were targeted. In 1988, one CRD official stated: “Sewage needs to be taken to a central point at Clover Point so a sewage plant can be built there.” (Times Colonist, April 28,1988)
An April, 1991 report submitted to the Capital Regional District (CRD) by engineer Seamus B. McDonnell, titled “Sewage Treatment Options and Locations of Sites,” included this description of Alternative IV:
"The treatment plant located at or adjacent to Beacon Hill Park could be developed similarly to the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Francisco, where the plant is located partially beneath the Zoological Gardens. At the Beacon Hill site, the facility would be buried and the ground surface would be restored to the current landscape or developed for other recreational and public enjoyment uses. The deed restrictions for Beacon Hill Park require that the park lands be maintained for the recreation and enjoyment of the public." (CRD files, Central Library)
In a November 18, 1991 report titled, “Increased Sewage Treatment - A Healthy Public Policy?” Dr. Shaun H.S. Peck, Regional Medical Health Officer for the CRD, answered his own title question with a big No. He said “the ocean floor sediments are organically enriched at the outfall,” not damaged. He claimed it was not proven that the marine environment would be improved by more sewage treatment and money would be better spent on other things. He dismissed American complaints about Victoria’s sewage by counter-attacking with “examples of environmental disasters within the United States” such as the Hanford Nuclear Plant.
In 2003, the CRD decided to spend $210,000 at the Clover Point pumping station to add a UV smell-control system to the carbon airfilters. The pumping station had been the source of persistent odour problems. (Times Colonist, November 14, 2003, p. C 1) [In 2005, depending on the weather conditions, the sewage smell is strong.]
By 2004, some sections of the East Coast Interceptor truck sewer line badly needed upgrading. One section of the original sewer line, “built of bricks in 1894 and running beneath Dallas Road near Clover Point” badly needed replacement. Environmentalists continued to criticize the dumping of untreated sewage into the ocean. (Times Colonist, November 1, 2004, p. B 1,2)
In 2005, the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) of Pensacola, Florida was chosen by the CRD to evaluate data on Victoria’s ocean raw sewage dumping. The impetus was the B. C. government requirement that the CRD audit its core area liquid waste management plan (LWMP) by March 31, 2006. (Times Colonist, May 5, 2005, p. C1, C2) The T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation called the review “another smokescreen” because it will only evaluate the existing plan. “The CRD will provide the only input and will focus it to show that they are meeting the terms of the current LWMP...They (CRD) know the sewage plume hits the surface eight months a year,” Jim McIsaac said. (Times Colonist, May 6, 2005, p. B 1) In July, it was announced the "blue-ribbon panel" review would cost $605,000. (Times Colonist, July 8, 2005, B 3)
Mr. Floatie, the mascot for an organization called People Opposed to Outfall Pollution, or POOP, was a tremendously successful advocate for secondary sewage treatment in 2005. By July, the tall brown replica of “Ocean Poo” was a familiar sight at downtown Victoria events such as the Tall Ships Festival and Swiftsure Yacht Race. Inside the bouncy turd suit made out of a backpack, chicken wire, foam and valour, was James Skwarok, the “movement coordinator.” He cracked unoffensive toilet jokes in a falsetto voice as he moved through crowds, posed for photos and handed out information about Victoria dumping “120 million litres of raw sewage daily.” POOP organized an event of its own on July 23, the first Toilet Bowl Regatta, in which participants rowed bathtubs while seated on porcelain toilets in the Inner Harbour. Though Mr. Floatie was forced to withdraw (for not using his “usual name”) from the Mayor’s race in October, the issue of sewage treatment remained high on the list of municipal campaign issues.
Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly nation-wide news-magazine, featured Mr. Floatie prominently in a October 17, 2005 cover story called “From Sea to Stinking Sea.” The magazine quoted the Sierra Legal Defence Fund’s sewage rating for Canadian cities in which Victoria ranked “suspended” because of its refusal to see a need for change, the worst grade in the country, followed by Montreal with an F, St. John’s with an E and Halifax with a D. (Maclean’s, October 17, 2005, p. 20-26)
Tearing up loop road proposed (1993, 1994, 2005)
In December, 1993, Coun. Geoff Young suggested bulldozing the Clover Point loop road to create a pedestrian-only area. He proposed retaining some car access and a parking area closer to Dallas Road. Coun. Laura Acton thought it was a “great idea.” Coun. David McLean did not.
Neighbours complaining about raucous parties, drinking, roaring engines and squealing tires prompted the discussion. City Council decided to consult with neighbourhood associations and the Parks Department. Staff were asked to prepare options for discussion. Other ideas included a locked night-time gate at Clover Point.
Car-loving opposition was strong, but some visitors to the Point liked the plan. “People do not always have to drive everywhere,” David Fulkco said. Peter Hiebert said fast cars on the loop didn’t combine well with kite-flying, a popular activity on Clover Point. If the City increased green space on the Point, the plan would include benches and water fountains, as well as historical information and a map of the coast. (Times Colonist, December 10, 1993)
In March, 1994, Coun. David McLean said a new walkway would be created on the existing parking area instead. The parking spots would remain, but would be removed further from the curbs. A dividing line would be painted on the road leading into the loop, a 15 km/h sign posted, and a crosswalk painted (see map). The plan was to go to the city’s advisory parks and recreation committee for discussion. McLean argued the parking spaces and road must stay because many seniors would be unable to visit the area without cars. Coun. Young’s plan to rip up the paved loop and replant it with grass was ignored. (Times Colonist, March 17, 1994, B 3)
In 2005, little has changed. The most spectacular point on the Dallas Road waterfront is still dominated by a parking lot. There is no crosswalk and no safe pedestrian walkway around Clover Point. The popular waterfront pathway which begins at Ogden Point and winds through Holland Point Park and Beacon Hill Park ends ignominiously at the Clover Point loop road. The right photo show the muddy pit forcing walkers into car traffic.
The photos below further illustrate the problem. Walkers need to weave dangerously around and between moving and parked cars. They eventually can access the muddy path shown on the right. [All photos taken in November, 2005 by N. Ringuette]
Geoff Young, reelected to City Council in November, 2005, will try again to create a safer, pedestrian-friendly area on the point. “I absolutely still believe strongly that Clover Point should be largely closed off to vehicles,” he said. (Email, November 26, 2005) This time, Young plans to counter the major objections in 1994 by better accommodating the elderly and handicapped. His new plan restricts cars to the north end of the point but leaves the road down the hill open, leading to a parking lot near the pumping station. That location provides level and “easy wheelchair access out to view the water,” he explained. “Some handicapped slots” will be included with “a good view of the ocean.
The plan’s strongest opponent in 1994, David McLean, is no longer on City Council. Visits by cars and recreational users have increased in the last decade. Council and the public could respond more positively to Young’s arguments in 2006.
“Walking out on Clover Point on a stormy night could be a magical experience if it were not dominated by car motors and lights, as it is now,” Young said.
Sculpture placed on Clover Point (2000)
A “Millennium Peace” sculpture made of Vancouver Island marble was erected for Earth Day, April 22, near the top of the hill above Clover Point. It was donated by Maarten and Nadina Schaddellee. The City provided the large concrete oval with compass points, a concrete base, bench and foundation. Victoria artist and critic Robert Amos thought “Maarten Schaddellee’s white B.C. marble piece,” was “propped up like a slab of white chocolate...” (Times Colonist, July 3, 2003, p. D9)
18th Annual Kite Festival (2005)
The Capital Mental Health Association’s 18th annual Kite Festival was held May 1, 2005, the first day of Mental Health Week. “Clover Point is one of the best places to fly a kite, and this is the only local kite flying event all year,” Wendy Sahaydak, the Associations’ executive assistant explained. “Flying a kite is a fun thing to do to look after your mental health.” (Times Colonist, April 28, 2005, D 12)
Despite light winds, there was a large turnout, with up to forty kites in the air simultaneously. Bob Ianson brought twelve kites, including a huge 6.5-metre wide by 3.3. metre tall kite with 23 metre tails. Other unusual kites included several dirigibles.
Historic swim around Vancouver Island started and ended at Clover Point
At 3 p.m. on October 2, 2005, Rob Dyke became the only swimmer in history to circumnavigate Vancouver Island. He swam 1,400 kilometres in 94 days to arrive back where he started at Clover Point. Beginning June 30, he swam north along the east side of Vancouver Island, rounded the Island's tip and swam the final leg south along the rugged west coast. He swam between five and seven hours a day in water colder than 10 C., battling waves, currents, wind and stinging jellyfish. It was an amazing feat.
The above two photos, taken by Norm Ringuette, show Dyke approaching the Clover Point beach at the end of his swim, awaited by a cheering crowd. His first attempt in 2003 ended abruptly when a large wave dislocated his shoulder.
Dyke, 37, hoped his Island Aquathon endurance swim would raise $100,000 for Red Cross water safety programs, but while he swam, fund-raising efforts stalled. Much of the swim took place far from population centres and it was impossible to generate publicity each day; before his triumphant arrival at Clover Point, the total raised was under $10,000. However, the Red Cross collected $7,000 at Clover Point at the arrival celebration and he planned to continue speaking for the organization to raise awareness and funds. (Times Colonist, September 29, 2005, C 1, October 3, 2005, A 1, C 1, Victoria News, September 30, 2005, A 2, October 5, 2005, A 5)
In 2005, a crowd of several hundred cheered Dyke into the beach. Fifty years earlier, during the heyday of marathon swimming, it is likely the crowd would have been in the tens of thousands. Marathon swims were on newspaper front pages in the 1950's, swimmers names as well known as hockey players. In 1956, a crowd of 30,000 lined Dallas Road to see 18 year old marathon swimmer Marilyn Bell land on the unnamed beach just west of Clover Point after swimming the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Victoria in 10 hours and 38 minutes. Bell not only collected $30,000 in prize money, she was honoured with a parade through Victoria, a reception in Beacon Hill Park and a monument erected along the Dallas Road footpath. [See Chapter 13 for details.]