W. H. (Herb) Warren retired as Parks Administrator in July, 1970 after almost forty years on the job. Warren began work in December, 1930 at the age of twenty-five and retired at age sixty-five.
On the day of his retirement, the Colonist printed a long interview with Warren. The beauty and traditions of Victoria were being sacrificed to traffic patterns and street alignments, he told veteran reporter Herbert Beyer:
"But reaction is setting in. The people will draw the line and put an end to the unnecessary destruction of parkland, trees and flowers in the name of progress...the conflict between the ever-increasing demand for land to accommodate public buildings and a city’s need for a clean and beautiful environment worries every parks administrator.
"It’s unfortunate that the elected representatives prefer to take the position of least resistance to schemes presented by traffic engineers. Politicians seem to be willing to destroy more and more parkland to accommodate public buildings rather than purchase land elsewhere.
"I can see no justification for fragmenting [Beacon Hill Park] by the construction of a thoroughfare across the north end of the park from Michigan. Beacon Hill Park has been proposed as a site for every major public building ever constructed in Victoria, including the provincial museum. If it hadn’t been for the original terms of the trust deed, there would be no park today." (Colonist, July 31, 1970, p. 21)
Warren said Victoria should preserve every square-inch of existing park land and convert any available small parcels of land into mini-parks. He thought more people appreciated the value of park land in 1970 than in earlier decades.
After retiring from the City, Warren continued to be involved with gardens, trees and park issues. He worked as a consultant at Butchart’s Gardens and was a member of the Beacon Hill Park Association. Along with G. D. Chaster and D. W. Ross, Warren authored the book Trees of Greater Victoria: A Heritage--A Field Guide to the Arboreal Riches of Greater Victoria, published in 1988 by the Heritage Tree Book Society.
A small island in Goodacre Lake is named after Warren. It is located north of the Douglas Street heron colony and a few feet south of Blair Island. The Warren Island sign is visible looking north from the duck feeding platform in winter; in summer it is almost completely obscured by foliage. [Note: In 2010, Warren received more recognition. He was featured on one of nine interpretative display panels mounted in the public information kiosk located south of the Stone Bridge and north of the Cameron Bandshell. The panel, titled "Agents of Change," includes photos and text explaining the roles of three influential men in park history: James Douglas, John Blair and Herb Warren.]
Assessing the Warren Years
W. H. Warren belongs at the top of a short list of influential figures in Beacon Hill Park history. The other key men are: James Douglas, who set the land aside and assured it was deeded by the Hudson’s Bay Company; John Blair, known for his 1889 landscape design; and Chief Justice Matthew Begbie, whose landmark 1884 legal opinion restricted the uses of Park land.
Warren had far more time and opportunity to influence Beacon Hill Park operations, design and policy than anyone before or since. Working without a master plan, Warren made or guided every large and small decision according to his personal philosophy and perspectives. He decided where and how structures, fields, plantings, paths and roads would be constructed. He wrote parks budgets, lobbied for funds and directed how money was spent. He hired staff and assigned their work. Warren decided how much attention the “more wild areas” would receive, how public events in the park would be organized, even where benches would be located and which music programs would be presented. Warren made these decisions for all other city parks and city boulevards, as well.
Among Warren innovations were the hanging baskets program, boulevards lined with more than 1,000 cherry trees, and the apprentice gardener program. In Beacon Hill Park, Warren developed the ornamental gardens in the central area. He designed and directed the construction of four small lakes near Circle Drive as well as Arbour Lake, near Goodacre Lake. He expanded and improved the Nursery area, greenhouses and buildings.
As Warren matured over four decades, his ideas, philosophy and policies evolved. In at least three areas, his views changed dramatically:
1. New developments in Beacon Hill Park
Warren advocated establishing a restaurant on Beacon Hill in 1946 and 1953. He proposed a fee-charging children’s farmyard in 1956 and even claimed Begbie would have approved. He favoured building an aquarium in the Park in 1954. Those major development proposals would have required changing the Trust to permit commercial operations and collection of fees.
By 1970, however, Warren spoke against any further development in Beacon Hill Park, including a restaurant. By 1977, Warren said he even wanted to move the children’s petting farm out of the Park.
2. City streets, internal roads and parking
Major street, road and parking expansions took place on Park land during Warren's leadership. Both Dallas Road and Douglas Street were widened and parking bays added. Even more drastic was the construction of Southgate Street through the north end of the Park in 1957. There is no record of Warren opposing the construction of that major arterial, which also expanded the intersection at Douglas and Blanchard using Park land and isolated a large section of the Park on the north side of the Southgate.
After supervising a huge expansion of parking spaces in the Park-- including enlarging the Circle Drive Parking Lot and constructing parking spaces near the central washroom, the deer pen and on the Park side of Douglas Street in 1961--Warren wrote he hoped to “hold the line” and not build more.
In 1970, Warren spoke strongly against road construction in the Park. By 1977, Warren was in favour of closing all internal Park roads.
3. Cutting “dangerous” Garry oaks
From 1930 to 1961, Warren cut ancient oaks down if any decay was found. In 1962, he drastically changed his approach after learning first hand how the British preserved old trees through judicious trimming. From then on, cutting was the last--not the first--option for Warren.
The next Parks Administrator, C. J. Bate, presented his assessment of Warren’s contributions in a 1976 report:
...Herb Warren renovated all the ornamental areas within Beacon Hill Park, planted hundreds of small flowering trees and shrubs, phased out the bear pens and buffalo enclosures, and developed a number of small lakes and flower beds in the park center. He supervised the placement of additional buildings and playing fields, and along with Mr. Purdy, is mainly responsible for the excellent layout of facilities within Beacon Hill Park. He fought hard to maintain a balance between the natural park areas and the improved park areas; and he located and developed the compact maintenance yard for an expanded park system. He worked without a formal plan. (November 23, 1976, File: 1701-1, Park Office)
The following assessment of Warren was included in the “Beacon Hill Park Heritage Landscape Management Plan 2004":
[Warren] ensured that he kept up with changing methods of park administration and development. Throughout his tenure he added amenities and focussed on new ornamental plantings. Many of his improvements built on and followed the spirit of the Blair plan while others drew on contemporary park planning ideas. His main contribution was the ornamental area just north of Beacon Hill and east of the Burns Monument, which contains a second, smaller, lake system in the wetlands; the central features were Rose Lake and a large circular rose garden...To fulfil his planting ambitions, Warren vastly increased the number of greenhouses in the maintenance area to serve not only Beacon Hill Park but all the City’s parks, boulevards and hanging flower baskets. (“Beacon Hill Park Heritage Landscape Management Plan,” Submitted to the City of Victoria by Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Ltd., May, 2004, p. 18-19)
(For more on Warren, see “The Warren Years Begin” at the beginning of Chapter 11.)
Subterranean Caverns Proposed under Beacon Hill Park
The most bizarre development proposal in the history of the Park was presented in March. In a letter to Mayor J. Courtney Haddock, Victoria resident Richard L. Brash proposed the construction of a series of underground labyrinths beneath the Dallas Road cliffs south of Beacon Hill.
Brash envisioned an underground shopping and entertainment mall protected from the weather. His plan would preserve the natural beauty of the Park on the surface, with the exception of a “revolving display-room-restaurant-tearoom-curio shop” at one entrance to the caves. The underground caverns could also be used as emergency bomb shelters.
Nobody but the inventor considered the plan feasible.
The Times described the proposal with glee:
An awesome plan for a vast, dual-purpose subterranean cavern beneath the slopes of Beacon Hill Park--a super-Disneyland in happy times and a bomb shelter, should it come to that--would be financed by a province-wide lottery and thus keep local money from going to [in Brash’s words] ‘foreign-dominated, greasy claws outfits’ abroad...The grotto, in peaceful times, would house amusement parks, shops, commercial advertising displays, underground hot springs, a wishing well and a weather-proof promenade with 50 feet of solid rock to keep out the elements. Exits would lead up through the rock to the revolving restaurant and various points of the park. (Times, March 31, 1970, p. 1)
The proposal was “received and filed” by Council and a letter of acknowledgment was mailed to Mr. Brash.
[A subterranean cavern was constructed on Dallas Road in the late 1970's for a different purpose. A $3.3 million sewage pumping station was built into the cliff at Clover Point. By January, 1992, Clover Point was the terminus of a ten kilometre sewer pipeline system. In 2004, Victoria’s raw sewage--screened but not treated--flows through the 3,800 foot outfall into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. See Appendix C, Dallas Road Waterfront for details.]
Short-lived fire circle
“In 1970, the Boy Scouts Association was given permission to install a Council Ring adjacent to Superior Street in Beacon Hill Park.” (C. J. Bate letter, May 3, 1971, Park Department files, 100 Cook Street) A ten foot concrete circle with a firepit in the centre was constructed in the northwest ridge area of the Park, a few feet south of Southgate Street.
A plaque at the site says in part:
"Boy Scouts of Canada. Diamond Jubilee, 1910-1970. To commemorate the occasion this campsite was erected by Fort Victoria District Scouts... The first fire was kindled by W. Herb Warren, City Parks Administrator. February 22, 1970."
The following spring, Parks Administrator C. J. Bate recommended to Council that no fires be allowed from June 15 to September 30. Building campfires in the dry northwest ridge area of the Park in the midst of Garry oaks and grass was permanently halted--even for Boy Scouts--when the fire hole was filled with eighteen bricks.
The photo shows the fire circle in 2004. Four disintegrating logs on concrete footings, originally placed for Scouts to sit around the fire, still border the circle. The bricked-in fire pit and the plaque complete the strange scene.
An anti-car protest was held in Beacon Hill Park on a rainy Sunday in April. According to the Times, about 150 people participated, most under the age of twenty. Protest sign messages included: “Cars Kill--Kill Cars,” “Blooms, Not Fumes,” “Cars Drive People Crazy,” and “This is a People Park, Not a Car Park.” (Times, April 6, 1970, p. 1)
The newspaper reported irate drivers pushing protesters with their cars and yelling. One driver called them “a bunch of dirty Communists.” Another person threatened, to “turn my dog loose on you.”
Organizer Mark Jackman, a University of Victoria student, said, “Some people were trying to run protesters down. It was not as peaceful and as positive as it could have been.” Jackman planned the next rally, to be held on a sunny Sunday, to be “a fun thing.” Signatures would be gathered on a petition requesting City Council to ban traffic on some internal Park roads. (Times, April 6, 1970, p.1)
Students circulated the petition in the Park on April 12. The petition proposed that Park Way, Chestnut Row, and Bridge Way--roads in the central and northern part of the Park--be closed. Major roads in the south part of the Park--Circle Drive, Lookout Road and Camas Circle--would remain open.
The petition claimed cars disturbed the free movement of people and threatened the safety of children and old people. It stated: “Beacon Hill Park is the most popular refuge in the city of Victoria, where one can retreat from the noise, pressure and odors of the modern city.” They did not attempt to slow or block traffic, as happened at the first event. (Times, April 6, 1970, p. 1 & Colonist, April 12, 1970, p. 15)
In July, the City’s traffic engineer, David Campbell, told a Council committee that he planned to close Bridge Way and “a stretch between the softball diamond and Lover’s Lane” and convert the network of roads in the center of the park to one-way. W. H. Warren said “People will have to be prepared to do a little more walking in the Park.” Warren expressed concern that increases in population and cars might destroy Beacon Hill. (Times, July 15, 1970, p. 22)
On August 13, the new traffic plan for Beacon Hill Park took effect. Park Way was changed to one-way south from Superior to the Circle; Lovers’ Lane was one way from the centre of the Park to Cook Street and one-way changes were planned “near the cricket field and Douglas street at Beacon.” The changes were temporary and City officials planned to analyze traffic patterns through September before recommending permanent changes. (Times, August 13, 1970, p. 15)
Movies in the Park
A program of open air movies at the Cameron Bandshell began July 14 and ended August 20. The films ran three nights a week starting at 9 p.m. The National Film Board offered family and tourist films on Tuesdays, experimental films on Wednesdays and a “celluloid salad” on Thursdays. Summer films in the Park were sponsored by the City of Victoria in cooperation with Esquimalt Canadian Forces Base, the Public Library and the National Film Board of Canada. (Times, July 8, 1970, p. 8)
Freeway proposed through Park
Victoria traffic engineers proposed “splitting Beacon Hill Park with a new four-lane road” again in July, the Times reported. They envisioned Michigan street extending “through the north end of the park to Rupert Street (now Quadra) on the east side of St. Joseph’s,” directing traffic to Cook Street. This would split the Park in two. A “sweetener” for those concerned about losing Park land involved “closing Superior Street to traffic and constructing a pedestrian walkway over Michigan to link both sections of the park.”
The Michigan Street extension through the Park was part of a grand scheme to funnel freeway traffic through James Bay by building a bridge over the Inner Harbour at Laurel Point. This traffic plan was discussed in 1957, 1965, 1967 and approved by Council in 1968. (Times, July 31, 1970, p. 1)
Retiring Parks Administrator Warren condemned splitting the Park: “I can see no justification for fragmenting the park by the construction of a thoroughfare across the north end of the park from Michigan,” he said. Warren said the city should not use the park for practical ends such as roads and that according to Justice Begbie’s 1884 ruling, the park should be used for recreational purposes only.
The Times thought construction of a bridge across the Inner Harbour and the freeway connection might be necessary:
The city’s problem in the James Bay district derives from increased traffic from high-rise development. Over the years, traffic has threatened to clog Douglas and Government streets because the city lacked an effective arterial road system...
In the distant future--10 to 20 years from now--Victoria may require an artery in James Bay to connect with a highway from the Trans-Canada Highway at a bridge proposed to cross Victoria Harbour at Laurel Point. (Times, July 31, 1970, p. 2)
The James Bay Land Use and Transportation Plan was a drastic proposal. The bridge over the Inner Harbour would funnel traffic from the Trans-Canada highway through the community of James Bay and split Beacon Hill Park into two sections. An overpass was planned from one section of the Park to the other.
This cartoon by John Bryant features Los Angeles-style overpasses crossing Beacon Hill Park with the Stone Bridge visible below and the totem pole standing between two freeways. The cartoon didn’t exaggerate the City plan by much. (Included with permission of John Bryant. First published in The Victorian, June 21, 1974.)
Flower beds cut by half
Flower beds in Beacon Hill Park must be reduced by almost half and replaced with grass and shrubs which require less maintenance, Acting Parks Administrator Cliff Bates told the Colonist. “We had no other choice after Council told us to cut $25,000 from our 1970 operating budget...there was considerable anger among our gardeners,” Bates said. Reducing flower beds would save about $5,000 out of a total budget for all parks and boulevards of $785,000.
A Seattle visitor, Allen Hutchins, suggested student volunteers and service clubs be enlisted to work in the Park. Bates replied that bringing in volunteer workers was “next to impossible. Here you get into the field of union regulations. They would never permit us to do that sort of thing.”
The President of the Greater Victoria Visitors Bureau said, “We are known as the City of Gardens. It’s hard to believe that the city would eliminate half the flowers in Beacon Hill Park to save $5,000...we’ll make our views known to the city.”(Colonist, August 4, 1970, p. 1, 3)
Park Caretaker position eliminated, improvements needed
A letter to the Colonist alerted Victoria residents to the Parks Committee decision to eliminate the Beacon Hill Park Caretaker position in October, 1970. Helen Kerswell pointed out valuable duties were performed by the Park Caretaker, including maintenance, contact with the public, and protecting birds and animals. She wrote:
This lovely park seems to be the target for erosion and curtailment of its many assets, when in fact it is long overdue for certain improvements. For instance, the bird aviary is over 50 years old and a mere shabby shell, with no protection from the winter cold. The animal enclosure is too small and lacks sufficient pasturage and shrubbery. The lakes are filthy and need draining and cleaning to clear up the pollution. (Colonist, September 19, 1970, p. 4)
Park workhorse Queenie died
Queenie, shown on the left with Park employee Sandy Hayton, died on November 15, 1970. A press release from the office of the new Parks Administrator, Cliff Bate, announced:
"Queenie, Beacon Hill Park horse, died shortly before midnight, Sunday, November 15th. Off and on during the last few years she had spells of sickness but as far as can be ascertained, she died of natural causes.
"She was born July 10, 1950, and worked ten years in Beacon Hill Park, from 1953 to 1963. She retired September, 1963, to the animal paddock where she died November 15, 1970. She will be buried in the paddock where she spent so many years.
"For health reasons, she will be buried Monday. Official burial will be Tuesday, 2:00 p.m. Anyone who wishes to pay their last respects to Queenie can do so between 2:00 and 5:00, November 17th, when entry will be permitted to the enclosure." (Bate, November 16, 1970, File: 1701-1)
In August, 1971, a memorial (shown below in a 2004 photo) was erected at Queenie’s burial site. The pinewood plaque features an image of Queenie carved by Kaj Nielsen and these words: “Queenie, our Clydesdale horse. Born July 19, 1950 Died Nov. 15, 1970.” Children continued to bring flowers to Queenie’s grave a year after her death at age 20. (Colonist, August 12. 1971, p. 43)
Queenie was not identified as a Clydesdale horse before the memorial sign. In all newspaper and park references, she was called a “workhorse” or a “draft-horse.” According to Roy Speller, brother of Lewis Speller, the man who donated Queenie to the Park, Queenie was "mostly Clydesdale" but was a "cross." Lewis bought Queenie for 20 bales of hay and used her to pull a sleigh before donating her to the City. (Telephone conversations with Roy Speller, November 14 & 15. 2004)
English Elm “weed-tree infestation” on Dallas Road waterfront
Dr. T. Christopher Brayshaw, Emeritus Curator of Botany at the Royal British Columbia Museum and an expert on the flora of Beacon Hill Park, noted a steady negative change in vegetation in the southwest corner and along the waterfront of Beacon Hill Park beginning about 1970. English Elm (Ulmus procera) was planted by the Parks Department at Douglas St. and Dallas Road and spread along the foreshore from there. English Elm spreads by suckering from its extensive shallow root system to form expanding thickets. Dr. Brayshaw called English Elm a “weed-tree infestation” and advocated its elimination. (Friends of Beacon Hill Park Society Newsletter, February 2002)
In an unpublished report in 2001, Dr. Brayshaw gave more detail on the English Elm invasion of the seaward slopes within the boundaries of Beacon Hill Park:
"This tree, which is tolerant of salt spray blowing off the sea, can spread by a dense growth of root suckers. Starting at the south end of Douglas Street about 1970, this tree has spread along the slopes in both directions. It’s abundant suckers generate thickets so dense that almost nothing else will grow under them. The eastern leading fringe of this invasion has now reached Finlayson Point...The eventual effect of this invasion will be a belt of elm forest occupying this slope and the closing off of the view of the sea from the Park behind it.” (T.C. Brayshaw, “The State of the Wild Plant Communities of Beacon Hill Park,” January 15, 2001, p. 12)
No Annual Reports
There were no Annual Reports issued by the Parks Department after 1969, with two exceptions. The “Beacon Hill Park Annual Report 2002,” was printed to fulfill a requirement of the Round Table and a twelve page booklet titled "Highlights of 2003" was issued by Parks, Recreation and Community Development in 2004.
Beacon Hill Park Association formed
The Beacon Hill Park Association (BHPA) was organized on December 14, 1970, to protest the James Bay Land Use and Transportation Plan. From 1971 until 1979, the Association was a very effective advocacy group.
From the start, the media-savvy BHPA received extensive coverage in all Victoria newspapers. They issued well written and perceptive press releases, handed out information at the Park, presented position papers, lobbied officials and attended Council meetings. Their well researched views on Beacon Hill Park and other park space in the region were asserted effectively during municipal campaigns.
The Association’s first press release in January, 1971, announced they intended to act as “watchdogs” against any attempts to build the Michigan Street extension through Beacon Hill Park. They would also work to preserve the balance between cultivated and natural areas in the Park and press for closure of some internal park roads to reduce traffic. Seventeen members attended the first meeting. Bernice Packford was elected President and retired Parks Administrator Herb Warren was appointed honorary president. (Colonist, January 8, 1971, p. 7)
Thirty out of a total of sixty Association members attended the next meeting. An ambitious target was set to sign up 500 members by June. Part of the Association’s aggressive campaign to increase membership involved handing out handbills asking each citizen to “become a Greenspace Guardian.” The leaflet said:
Warning: Beacon Hill Park is in Danger.
1862 --the Public Park about 200 acres;
1940 --Total Park area 188 acres;
1971 --Total Park area 154 acres.
1972 and the future: Proposed James Bay development passed by City Council in 1968 includes Michigan St. to be extended through the Park. Dallas Road to be widened from park territory. Douglas Street to be widened from park territory. Heywood Street to be widened from park territory. People need GREENSPACE for mental and physical health. (Friends of Beacon Hill Park files)
Columnist Arthur Mayse received the handout and agreed: “No further nibblings should take place...” once parkland is gone “it cannot be replaced.” (Times, Feb. 20, 1971)
The Victorian headline stated “Beacon Hill Park Association is fighting off City Hall.” The article explained the Association wanted to “encourage love of the park, work toward increasing all parkland in the area,” and against commercial development. (The Victorian, Feb. 25, 1971, p. 1)
The BHPA approached the Victoria Chamber of Commerce for support. Bob Ellis, of the Chamber’s environment committee, praised the “responsible approach” of the group in its opposition to the expansion of streets in the park. The City proposal and the Association position were to be discussed by the Chambers executive officers. (Times, February 27, 1971, p. 47)
On March 15, the BHPA announced they had 400 members. In April, it had climbed to 485 members and by the end of September, 600.
President Bernice Packford told the Colonist in August that the group formed to protest the James Bay Plan for Land Use and Transportation, issued in 1967 and approved by Council in 1968. “Our fundamental objective is to educate our own members, the public and civic officials so that they will preserve and extend Beacon Hill Park in the spirit in which it was originally given to the people of Victoria...”
The Colonist concluded:
The Beacon Hill Park Association shows every sign of becoming a potent protector of greenspace. It has as a member and consultant, Herb Warren, a recently-retired city superintendent of parks. The group collected 1,500 signatures protesting the increase in car traffic through the park and as a result the city took steps to reduce traffic flow. (Colonist, August 21, 1971, p. 21)
The last weekend in September, BHPA members carrying “Save the Park” placards picketed six hours Saturday and another six hours on Sunday in the Park. They distributed pamphlets with membership applications. The pamphlet asked:
Do you feel crushed by concrete, assaulted by asphalt, tortured by traffic, smothered by smog?
Do you love kids with kites, grannies in grass, people by ponds, friends and flowers?
(Colonist, September 26, 1971, p. 23)
The Times coverage of the membership drive quoted Mrs. Packford: “We have close to 600 members already and our goal is 1,000 by December 14, our association’s first anniversary. I don’t see why we should not achieve that.” (Times, September 27, 1971, p. 19)
Both newspapers covered the BHPA discussion of a written brief, called “Park Policy of City of Victoria,” being prepared for presentation to the Parks Committee on October 5. The focus of the brief was overall park goals and policies in the City. The BHPA planned to ask the Committee for a response to their list of questions and suggestions in three weeks.
One section of the brief discussed the ratio of park land to population in City planning. The brief cited the International Recreational Parks Association recommended ratio of one acre of park for every 100 people in an urban area as a norm for North American cities and noted: “The actual park acreage in the City of Victoria is 293.27 acres [1969 figures] and our ...population was 61,300 . This gives a figure at that time of .48 acres per 100 citizens of Victoria.” They advocated acquiring more park land in three areas of the City immediately. (Times, September 28, 1971, p. 14)
A key question to be asked of Council members was: Is there a plan or policy for the preservation and expansion of park facilities?
Peter Pollen, an Association member and a City Council member, pointed out that everyone knew the answer to this question: there was no city plan for park preservation or expansion just as there was no policy on the ratio of park space to population. He said it was overly optimistic to expect a fast response from Council. (Colonist, September 28, 1971, p. 21)
The brief included another question:
Since the contention is that existing park land is not safe under present legislation, will this Council go on record that it will be willing to draft legislation so that all city parks have legal protection against any encroachments or inroads whatsoever, and then enact or have enacted such legislation that will bind future council and preserve all parks owned by the City of Victoria for all time? (Times, September 28, 1971, p. 14)
The brief stated: “fundamentally parks must be a forethought in land use rather than an afterthought.” The Association also sought specific assurance that the James Bay Land Use and Transportation Plan, where it encroached on Beacon Hill Park, will be rescinded. The group, claiming 612 members in September, approved the brief prepared by the executive.
A long Times editorial the next day supported every draft point, agreeing there should be an “air-tight policy” to protect parkland and also “a formal program of parks acquisition on an annual basis.” (Times, September 29, 1971, p. 4)
In October, the Association--now with 620 members and still aiming for 1000 by December 14--decided to send teams of volunteers each weekend to inform people in Beacon Hill Park of possible encroachment by road building. President Bernice Packford said:
We want to inform the public that the City has not rescinded the James Bay Land Use and Transport Plan. That plan allows for the widening of three streets skirting the park: Heywood, Dallas and Douglas, by taking part of the Park away and also calls for the extension of Michigan through the Park. The Park is now dedicated, but that isn’t enough protection...
She said the ultimate aim of the Association was to work for the protection and retainment of all parks. (Times, October 6, 1971, p. 13)
Parks Committee Chairman Clyde Savage replied to the Association’s brief in December. He said the Committee recommended against the Michigan Street extension and that only one acre of extra parkland would be acquired in James Bay instead of the acreage requested by the BHPA.
Bernice Packford thanked him for replying but said the Association was not pleased with some of the answers, “But we are very happy with Savage’s recommendation that there is no consideration of Michigan being extended past Beacon Hill Park.” (Times, December 9, 1971, p. 41)
Nothing was said about reaching the 1000 membership drive goal by December 14, but in February, 1972, the Times noted the Association had 750 members.
City should feed ducks
A resident of Goodacre Towers on Douglas Street said the City should provide grain for ducks at Beacon Hill Park during cold weather. Charles Beeching said the ducks were dependent on a few people and the SPCA for grain. “There are hundreds of ducks huddled together and without feed. Feeding them with bread during a cold spell is of little use as the more aggressive seagulls get it all. They should have grain.”
A Parks Department spokesman said it has never been the policy of the City to feed ducks. (Times, January 16, 1971, p. 23)
New Service Building
In February, the Parks Committee recommended City Council approve plans for a new $100,000 “headquarters building” at Beacon Hill Park. Parks Director Cliff Bate showed drawings of the building to the Committee and said tenders would be called the end of April. The Colonist wrote: “The new building is to replace a number of shacks located in the park’s centre between the playground and the toilets. It will house service and maintenance headquarters.” (Colonist, February 3, 1971, p. 17)
Surprisingly, the new building was not destined for the Maintenance Yard. It was to be located right in the busiest area of the Park, the central landscaped area near the bandshell and playground.
The Beacon Hill Park Association opposed the new building. The Victoria Labour Council and the Boilermakers Union agreed with the BHP Association there should be no new buildings of any kind in the Park. (Colonist, Feb. 4, 1971, p. 25 and The Victorian, Feb. 25, 1971, p. 1)
Mayor Courtney Haddock defended the building saying...”the new maintenance building in Beacon Hill Park will not decrease the size of the park” because the new building was replacing old, dilapidated buildings. Haddock was responding to a statement by the Victoria Labour Council about the ‘continuing encroachment’ of parkland within the capital region. The Labour Council objection came after the Beacon Hill Park Association informed them that since 1862, parkland in Victoria had declined from 200 to 154 acres. (Times, February 20, 1971, p. 25)
One road closed, with ceremony
City Council and the Parks Department organized an official good-news “asphalt turning” ceremony in Beacon Hill Park.
Parks Administrator Cliff Bate said the event was “to get publicity about increasing park land.” A section of road asphalt 100 yards long by 20 feet wide called Upper Nursery Road “running south from the cricket pitch” was removed and planted in grass as part of “a general plan to reorganize park traffic,” Bate explained.
Representatives of the Beacon Hill Park Association, identified in the paper as a “save the parks group whose main goal is to keep it natural,” were on hand as Parks Committee Chairman and Alderman Clyde Savage and Mayor Courtney Haddock used shovels to turn over the first chunks of asphalt, a twist on the usual soil turning ceremony. (Times, March 15, 1971, p. 17)
Children’s Farmyard approved
In March, the Parks Committee approved “in principle” a Children’s animal farm in Beacon Hill Park. Cliff Bate said the plan was to bring “lambs, pigs, a calf and a small horse” in a “fairy tale approach.” The Parks Committee hoped for donations from service clubs toward the $3,000 project. (Times, March 16, 1971, p. 71)
The next day, the Colonist reported the first stage in building the Children’s farmyard would be the installation of a chain link fence, at a cost of $2,500. The following year, the animals would be acquired. The location for the farm was the deer enclosure area on Circle Drive. Queenie’s former enclosure would be included in the farm. The newspaper noted: “The park’s small zoo currently contains peacocks, rabbits, deer and poultry.” (Colonist, March 17, 1971, p. 30)
In March, 1971, the BHP Association’s first newsletter, “The Greenspace Guardian,” was published. One curious paragraph pointed out: “A new duck feeder is at the Emily Carr bridge. This is to encourage people to feed the ducks so park areas do not get so swampy from duck-stomping.”
[Feeding ducks was actively promoted in 1971. It is possible the “new duck feeder” refers to a concrete feeding platform near the footbridge. In 1984, several concrete duck feeding platforms were constructed. But in 1995, feeding ducks was actively discouraged by the Park Director when signs were erected asking visitors not to feed ducks. These signs, still posted, have been completely ignored.]
Security company problems
The Metropolitan Security Services, Ltd. requested an increase per hour from $2.50 to $2.85 to patrol Beacon Hill Park. They claimed they were hurt by unfair competition with the Commissionaires because Metropolitan was “forced to pay out fabulous amounts of monies for licenses, etc. whilst the Corps of Commissionaires are operating as a supposedly non-profit organization under the B. C. Societies Act and by using this screen is not accorded the same financial responsibilities.”
City Council’s financial committee made no decision. Instead, it wanted to turn over control of the security forces in the Park to the police department. (Times, April 2, 1971, p. 3) [Metropolitan Security Services did sign a contract, but in May, 1972, it was canceled due to “poor service.” See 1972.]
A 60 foot by 16 foot flower bed south of the Beacon Hill Park cricket pitch was prepared and planted by the Victoria Chrysanthemum Society, a division of the Victoria Horticultural Society, as a centennial project. 400 chrysanthemums of 60 different varieties were included. (Colonist, April 30, 1971, p. 24) In September, Parks Administrator Cliff Bate invited Victorians to see the hundreds of mums in full bloom. (Times, September 2, 1971, p. 26)
Fight over cricket parking
The Parks Committee recommended to City Council that a new parking bylaw be passed restricting parking near the cricket pitch in Beacon Hill Park. After July 15, neither members or spectators would be allowed to park their cars on the grass surrounding the cricket field, as they had for decades. The Victoria and District Cricket Association was fiercely opposed. (Colonist, April 13, 1971, p. 11)
The Times pointed out cricket players and spectators had been enjoying special privileges. While other visitors to the Park were not allowed to park on the grass, the old bylaw stated: “During the cricket season vehicles may be parked on the grass to the north and west sides of the cricket field...”
Parks Administrator Bate anticipated opposition when he asked the Parks Committee to remove the cricketers special privileges. In a letter to the Committee in March, Bate wrote: “...while I realize the withdrawal of this special parking concession to cricket spectators will be protested, the absence of vehicle parking on the grass will permit police and our park patrol to regulate and police [the bylaw] in a more orderly fashion.” (Times, June 15, 1971, p. 21) Perhaps the protest was stronger than Bate anticipated. Cricketers and Council battled from April through June.
Cricket Association President Maurice contacted Mayor Haddock to explain that in bad weather, spectators had to watch games from their cars. He claimed one could “only sit outside comfortably six weeks of the year” in Victoria. Mayor Haddock was not a sympathetic listener. He said, “I tried to watch a cricket match once; it takes days before it’s over.” (Colonist, April 14, 1971, p. 13)
City Council passed the bylaw prohibiting parking on the grass around the cricket field, with three nay votes. Ald Tom Christie said he liked watching cricket; Ald. Robert Baird said “It’s part of the Victoria scene”; and Ald. Percy Frampton said elderly people needed the shelter of cars to watch, “It’s pretty cold out there with the wind tearing right across.” Ald. Peter Pollen, however, said, “...this beautiful park is being overrun by vehicles.” (Colonist, April 23, 1971, p. 25)
In May, City Council listened to a “five-page, 1,400 word brief” from the Victoria and District Cricket Association solicitor, A. B. Russ. According to the Colonist, Russ said spectators might have a legal right to watch cricket matches from their cars because the practice was at least 68 years old and maybe older. He cited testimony from two elderly people who watched cricket matches from cars in 1908. This “may give rise to the existence of a prescriptive right,” he said, though he did not specifically threaten to sue. He pointed out that Victoria tourist publications included photos of spectators in cars, proving the practice was part of the image of Victoria. Council referred the matter back to the Parks Committee. (Colonist, May 14, 1971, p. 1)
At the next Parks Committee meeting, Mayor Haddock reported: “I’m getting all kinds of phone calls. Maybe we should take a look at the cricket field and see what we can do.” Ald. Savage, Parks Committee Chairman, said he, too, had received many calls from irate cricket players. “It sure doesn’t look as if we’re about to do the right thing.” (Colonist, May 19, 1971, p. 17)
In June, Ald. Savage assured Council and the cricketers something would be worked out, saying “We will be presenting very shortly a plan to show how this can be overcome without parking on the grass.” Nevertheless, the Times reported, Tom Christie “demanded the floor to berate the Parks Committee for ignoring the ‘60-year tradition’ of watching cricket from parked cars.” Christie thought the cricket association lawyer’s brief established a legal parking tradition. Christie called Council’s attitude a “shame and a pity...the death-knell to cricket in Beacon Hill Park...” (Times, June 11, 1971, p. 2)
A few days later, the Times concluded “The cricketers of Beacon Hill Park have won their match with city hall.” The Parks Committee agreed to allow up to 30 cars to park beside the pitch to watch games. No parking would be allowed along the north side of the field but parking was allowed along the west side in a posted area. No other visitors to the Park could park there, however. Traffic engineer David Campbell said everyone should be allowed to park in the area, but the Committee restricted it only to cricket watchers. (Times, June 15, 1971, p. 21)
The Colonist deemed the Parks Committee decision to take away half the cricketers parking privileges a “Solomonic decision” as well as a “tactical retreat.” (Colonist, June 16, 1971, p. 14)
City Council unanimously approved the cricket parking plan. The Times pointed out this continued “to give cricket spectators a unique privilege in the Park. No other sports spectators are allowed to park cars” on grass. (Times, June 25, 1971, p. 9) [In 1972, Ald. Tom Christie pushed to reopen parking again on the north side of the cricket field but received no support whatsoever on Council. He grumpily called the other Aldermen “pigheaded.” (Times, May 18, 1972, p. 32)]
Lookout Shelter glass removed
In a June 24, 1971 letter to W. Hooson, Municipal Manager, C. J. Bate recommended that all glass be removed from the Beacon Hill Lookout after 70 panes were broken in June. Bate wrote: “The Lookout Building is a glass enclosed structure used formerly as a protection to view the straits and mountains and as a recreational area for Senior Citizens to play checkers.” (Park Office files, 100 Cook St. attic)
The Parks Committee decided to reduce the Lookout to a wind-protection shelter only, the Colonist reported. Bate said use of the building had declined but an annual expenditure of $1,500 was needed to maintain it (including $500 for broken glass). Bate said the building was inspected in 1970 and was structurally sound; it could remain until a smaller protective structure could replace it. Plans should be prepared to reduce the building to a protection lookout. Bate said: “Right now people just seem to drive up there and sit in their cars to look at the view.” (Colonist, July 16, 1971, p. 18)
The Times reported:
The Beacon Hill Park Association plans no official protest against plans to reduce the park’s historic lookout building to a wind shelter...A spokesman for the park association said today the group, formed to protect the park from the encroachment of city growth, did not want to get the reputation of being complainers every time any modification was deemed necessary by the city.” (Times, July 16, 1971, p. 2)
No camping in the Park
A Victoria resident wrote a letter to City Council complaining Beacon Hill Park was being used as a campground. Mervin Beaveridge said there were at least five camper trucks or other “makeshift” vehicles parked along Dallas Road every night and Park patrols were not enforcing rules against it. The letter continued:
I must also complain about persons who are openly seen sleeping in the park and along the beach, some even pitching lean-to’s. Last week one of the park patrol officers completely ignored a young man and woman who were sleeping in the same sleeping bag at the foot of a bench across the street from the tallest totem...This is particularly offensive to older people and should not be tolerated. It is also unsanitary. I’m all for the great outdoors and for young people sleeping there but not in Beacon Hill Park. (Times, August, 17, 1971, p. 21)
The City Manager said he would push for better enforcement. A Council committee decided to investigate an emergency area for campers who arrive late at night. The Times wrote:
City police allow campers to stay on Dallas Road if it appears they are settled down for the night. Others are referred to the Mayfair shopping centre parking lot, where nearby restaurants stay open all night and provide washroom facilities. (Times, August, 17, 1971, p. 21)
Two days later the Times wrote that “Victoria traffic inspector Richard Berry” admitted some campers are permitted to stay overnight in the Beacon Hill Park area on Dallas Road. He said, “If they come in so late and they’re bedded down and they’re peaceful, we don’t like to disturb them. You’ve got to bend a little bit. It’s just a matter of common sense.” (Times, August 19, 1971, p. 25)
A Times editorial the same day stated: “It is a mistake for police to permit camping along the Dallas Road waterfront for this can only lead to further inroads on the Park and the establishment of ‘rights’ in this regard...Shopping plaza areas are not the answer either.” (Times, August 19, 1971, p. 4) [See 1973 for more on camping.]
Cliff Bate told the Times there was a rabbit explosion in Beacon Hill Park and the rabbits were eating Park flowers. He claimed the problem began when someone dropped a couple of does in the Park animal pen. The rabbits multiplied and dug tunnels under the fence. “The next thing we knew they kept popping up in the rose garden and at the nursery. You can’t keep them in the pen. They are master tunnel makers.” (Times, September 1, 1971, p. 52)
Deer killed and stolen
During the Christmas long weekend, a deer disappeared from the deer pen at Beacon Hill Park. A hole was cut in the eight foot high chain-link fence at the rear of the animal enclosure. A trail of blood led to the parking lot. Parks Administrator Bate said he wasn’t sure which of the five deer was slaughtered and dragged away; it appeared to be a male, age one and a half. A second deer went through the hole and was apparently wandering in the Park. Bate said it was a mature animal and would be difficult to capture. A doe fawn disappeared from a smaller enclosure a few weeks before, apparently lifted over the fence. (Times, December 28, 1971, p. 21 and Colonist, December 28, 1971, p. 15)
The “Blender” completed
On January 30, 1972, the Colonist announced the completion of the new Service Building in the Park, called the “Blender”:
The new maintenance building in Beacon Hill Park has been completed, replacing rundown structures, some of them Second World War army huts. It was designed to blend in with the Park’s surroundings, parks officials said. Total cost, including underground wiring, was $110,000. (Colonist, January 30, 1972, p. 14)
The building, shown in the above 2004 photo, is located in the centre of the Park next to the public washrooms and playground. The building blends in so well, many visitors don’t notice it behind trees, shrubs, flowers and a water fountain. It is used for staff offices but the centrally located building could become an interpretative centre.
BHPA provides guide service
In February, the Parks Committee approved a summer guide service to be provided by the 750 member strong Beacon Hill Park Association in cooperation with the City.
“Park employees are often too busy to answer questions on flowers and such things as the Chinese Temple Bell,” Association member Rhona Arlett said, “We thought we could do some good by providing guided tours.”
Three Park employees--Acting Park Administrator Alex Smith, Horticulturist Ron Edwards and Supervisor Alex Johnston--planned to present information to the volunteer guides. (Times, February 18, 1972, p. 17)
Proposal to eliminate all Internal roads
A comprehensive plan "to eliminate all vehicle traffic [in Beacon Hill Park] in six stages” was presented in April to the Parks Committee by Parks Administrator Cliff Bate. Bate explained the last phase would eliminate the east-west road (Circle Drive) through the centre of the Park. Dallas Road, considered a main thoroughfare, would remain. Bate said some roads would be blocked off for trial periods during the summer. There was no set time period for the six phases. Bate said he was presenting the plan to show how it could be done if Council wished to proceed but was not making any recommendations.
The plan met with fierce opposition from Ald. Tom Christie, who called the idea “nonsense” and demanded to know whose idea it was to close roads. “Who is the brain working behind all this nonsense?” he demanded.
Bate explained the 1970 City Council ordered the Parks and Traffic Departments to design the plan, which took 18 months to develop. Mayor Peter Pollen told Christie that Hyde Park in London, England, had only one road through it. Christie responded: “Yes, but this is not London, Mr. Mayor. What the hell are you giving me?” He said he couldn’t walk through the Park and neither could many Victorians. He was dismayed the Lookout Road was scheduled to be closed. (Times, April 6, 1972, p. 21)
A Colonist editorial supported the idea of no cars in the Park. “It would certainly improve circulation of the life stream of this beauty spot.” The editorial suggested a wheelchair service for those who couldn’t walk the Park, then took aim at Ald. Tom Christie:
It would appear that all Alderman Tom ever does is drive the narrow blacktop in the inner circle and breathe in what beauty can be seen on the road fringes along with the monoxide he is adding to his self-restricted scene.
The point is, Beacon Hill Park can only be truly appreciated for what it is--a place of nature with many out-of-the-way beds of cultivated color for the enjoyment of people--by strolling its paths and swards... Perhaps [Christie] would stop hollering long enough for the car-banning plan at least to be tested as suggested...To many of its admirers [Beacon Hill Park] would be even more “special” without cars. (Colonist, April 8, 1972, p. 4)
A Times editorial, calling the Park “a refuge from the grind of the machine age,” supported the exclusion of cars:
The great asset of Beacon Hill Park is the sanctuary it provides, almost at the edge of the downtown area, for persons who wish to stroll or sit and enjoy the serenity of gardens, oak trees, ponds and the Juan de Fuca view. A heavy traffic of cars, and the spreading growth of parking lots, must inevitably destroy this major attraction of the park. (Times, April 13, 1972, p. 4)
Sixty members of the Beacon Hill Park Association toured the Park with Parks Administrator Cliff Bate and a Times reporter in April. President Bernice Packford noted rising population density close to the Park and serious overuse problems. She advocated a complete halt to building and road construction in the Park. Bate said Park roads, paths and parking areas took up 10.06 acres. (Times, April 17, 1972, p. 36)
In May, John Newberry, Recording Secretary of the Beacon Hill Park Association, made a presentation to the Parks Committee in favor of the gradual phasing out of car traffic in the Park. Unfortunately, Newberry spoke of “exponential growth,” the similarities of mankind to “a colony of yeast cells” dividing, and “linear process.” The talk didn’t go over well with Tom Christie, who interrupted: “Pardon me, Mister, what is this gobbledygook you’re dishing up here? What does all this have to do with Beacon Hill Park?” (Colonist, May 5, 1972, p. 15)
A more direct statement summing up the Association position was made by Vice President Jim Beaubien: “Basically, we want to see the cars moved out of the park so there is more room for people.” (Times, May 4, 1972, p. 25)
The Parks Committee closed some internal roads on a trial basis, including: “Partial closure of Bridge Way from Douglas Street to Park Way effective noon to 8 p.m. daily from May to September; Four-month trial closure of Lovers Lane between the picnic areas; Park Way from Circle to Bridge Way to be barricaded for a four-month trial period.” The Committee turned down the staff suggestion to close Lookout Road, leading up to the top of Beacon Hill. (Times, May 18, 1972, p. 32)
In November, the Parks Committee recommended the permanent closure of two roads in Beacon Hill Park: Lovers’ Lane, between the two picnic areas, and Parkway, adjacent to the bandshell. Portions of the roads would be retained as paths and the rest seeded with grass. Bate said only a handful of complaints were received from the public about the two closed roads during the four month trial period. The Traffic Department report stated if any more roads were closed, there would likely be opposition from older and less mobile users of the Park. (Times, November 2, 1972, p. 31)
The Colonist wrote:
Whether more roads will be closed in the future is uncertain... According to the results of a questionnaire circulated by the city’s traffic department, the majority of Victorians would prefer further road closures in Beacon Hill Park, but to a varying degree. Of 200 Victoria residents interviewed by the department, 33% were in favor of a complete closure of roads; 30% were in favor of a partial closure; 26% favored closing all but the main road; while only 11% favored no closures. (Colonist, November 3, 1972)
Patrol contract canceled
After hearing a report from Parks Administrator Cliff Bate that “The patrol personnel are not receiving their pay, causing frequent changes in patrol personnel and resulting in extremely poor service to the city,” the Parks Committee recommended terminating the contract with Metropolitan Security Services. Bate said the patrol failed to report for duty the previous weekend, leaving the Park without protection. “With the men not receiving their money they are not going to work.” Temporarily, “the firm which patrols city parking meters” would be asked to supervise the Park. (Times, May 18, 1972, p. 31)
New rules for Speakers Corner
The Parks Committee endorsed a new set of rules, drafted by Parks Administrator Cliff Bate, for orators in Beacon Hill Park’s Speakers Corner area. According to the Times:
Speakers will be allowed a soap-box type of platform measuring two feet by three feet by one foot and to display a small placard indicating their name or their subject. But, under the rules, using any kind of amplifying equipment is strictly a no-no; it’s lung-power... (Times, July 7, 1972, p. 11)
The Colonist reported Bate had received a complaint about high-volume religious music played at Speakers Corner. When City Council established the Corner in 1960, no rules were made. (Colonist, July 8, 1972, p. 14)
Caretaker’s home moved out of the Park
The caretaker’s home was moved from its location in the Park behind the main washrooms area to the Thetis Lake Revolver Range to be used by the Victoria City Police Revolver Club. (Letter, July 11, 1972, Park Files, 100 Cook Street
Fewer than 100 windows left in Lookout Shelter
There were fewer than 100 window panes left in the Lookout Shelter on top of Beacon Hill by July, Al Smith, Superintendent of Parks Maintenance said. Until 1971, when the Parks Department began a “window removal program,” the building’s 45 window frames each had nine panes of glass. Smith said the policy in 1972 was: “When 50 per cent of the windows in one frame are broken, we remove the rest.” Parks Administrator Cliff Bate said it was “just too costly” to continue replacing broken windows and “We’ve had only one complaint about it in a year.”
Smith said there was vandalism in other areas of the Park, as well: “We’ve had problems with people stealing plants, molesting the animals, all of our guinea pigs were stolen, some of our deer were shot and people have dropped rocks in the toilets.” In January, the Parks Department set up a “vandalism file” to record all acts of vandalism and costs in city parks. (Times, July 29, 1972, p. 45)
Rock concert request
The Parks Committee received an application from B.C. Sound Productions for permission to hold a rock concert at the Cameron Bandshell in Beacon Hill Park August 12 or 19. Before recommending approval, the Committee asked staff to check out references and sound levels. Mayor Peter Pollen worried about the “inordinate amount of technological support they require to get sounds from one decibel to a million,” but agreed the City shouldn’t be “strictly geriatric” in its attitudes. (Times, August 5, 1972, p. 17)
The following week, City Council rejected the application for a rock concert at the Bandshell after a brief debate. Mayor Pollen was still concerned over the possible high noise level: “It might not only drive the old people out of the park, but also the ducks and geese.” The Mayor suggested that the applicant consider another venue. (Colonist, August 11, 1972, p. 20)
Obstacle Course Proposed
Alderman Ove Witt, Chairman of the Parks Committee, proposed a physical fitness obstacle course in Beacon Hill Park. “One objective is to keep the taxpayers fit so they can keep those taxes rolling in," Witt said. His main objective, however, was to increase recreational facilities in Victoria: “I believe we have a responsibility to provide such services for our residents. Such a track could be used by children or grownups; they can swing from things, jump over obstacles or crawl through tunnels. They have them in other cities.” Witt, the operator of a private health club, said he believed a good daily workout for everyone would reduce doctors’ workloads by 25%. Witt wanted the City to build another skating arena next to the Memorial Arena, as well. (Colonist, October 21, 1972)
Michigan Street extension proposed again
The Michigan Street extension was coming up again in a report about to be released by the City, Times staffer Paul Moss reported. The proposal came with a “land-swap” plan: close Superior Street and cut Michigan Street through the Park instead. (Times, October 26, 1972, p. 25)
A Times editorial the next day warned:
The perennial threat of another street being pushed through Beacon Hill Park is in the news again and all Victorians who wish to preserve their park from further encroachment and nibbling had better rouse their forces to repulse this latest onslaught... Whatever other solutions there may be, it is certain that we can only lose by permitting any more thoroughfares to be cut through the park...Beacon Hill Park should not be made the ransom price for bad planning in James Bay. It should be recognized as inviolate...Cutting into the park is not the cure for one mistake. It just means that you have two mistakes. (Times, October 27, 1972, p. 4)
Responding to the same soon-to-be-released Traffic Engineering Department recommendations, a Colonist editorial warned: “One more nibble at the park might not do much harm, but it could be the precedent for another and another.” (Colonist, November 3, 1972, p. 4)
Also responding to the coming mid-November release of the Traffic Department’s study, named “Victoria 2000," the Sierra Club of B. C. presented a three-page brief to City Council. The Sierra Club asked that all plans to sacrifice part of the Park for road extensions be abandoned. John Willow, Chairman of the Sierra Club, said a road through the Park would be a “deliberate desecration of an historically established park area” and “a lapse back into the dark ages of municipal development.” (Times, November 6, 1972, p. 17)
River otter in Goodacre Lake
A River Otter (Lutra canadensis) arrived in Goodacre Lake the end of November. Human visitors to the Park were concerned the otter was driving away ducks. The Times wrote: “[The Park Department] has called in the SPCA to trap and banish the furry felon, barring which they have orders to shoot to kill." (Times, November 28, 1972)
Eric Hargreaves, who fed the ducks every morning at Goodacre Lake, considered the otter a villain. He claimed the otter had been in the Lake for two weeks and caused the ducks to fly away. “It’s just taken complete control of things,” he said. “The ducks are scared out of their feathers.”
Parks Administrator Cliff Bate explained, “The ducks are only flying to another part of the Park. They live all over Victoria. They’re not going to migrate anywhere else.” Bate said the SPCA did not succeed in capturing the otter and Park officials are leaving it alone:
If [the otter] follows the regular pattern, he’ll stay a short while and move on, probably when he’s exhausted the food supply. He’s upset the ducks and the duck-feeding habits of local people, but there’s no need to get alarmed--the ducks may even get used to him. (Times, December 4, 1972, p. 21)
[Happily, River Otters still visit Goodacre Lake once or twice a year. The length of an otter’s stay in the Park is probably related to the number of available fish.]
The same duck-loving resident, Mr. Hargreaves, also complained that the level of Goodacre Lake had dropped a foot and a half below the normal level. He called it “just a mud pond.” Cliff Bate explained the level of Goodacre Lake is kept low every winter to “ease the burden on storm drains...in heavy winter rains.” (Times, December 4, 1972, p. 21) [There is an overflow “outlet” on the east side of the lake by the footbridge next to Arbutus Way. When rain raises the water level of the lake, it spills over into the storm drain.]
Anscomb fountain proposed
Considerable correspondence in park files dated 1972-1973 concerned a bequest to the City for the Anscomb Memorial Fountain. The will stipulated the location of the fountain should be in Beacon Hill Park at Mile Zero, the junction of Douglas Street and Dallas Road. City staff agreed that location was too expensive--there was no water available nearby--and also that it was cold, congested and inappropriate. Other locations were suggested, but the fountain was not constructed. (Park Files, 100 Cook Street)
Firehall proposed in the Park
Alderman Tom Christie proposed relocating the Superior Street firehall in the southeast corner of Beacon Hill Park instead of buying a piece of property. The City Finance Committee had authorized spending $50,000 for an appropriate site. “I’m giving you a simple solution to save $50,000," Christie said.
Fire Chief Eric Simmons agreed the Park would be an ideal location because the firehall would serve both James Bay and Fairfield and he wanted to locate it between the two. “It’s quite possible to build a firehall that blends in with the parks surroundings,” Simmons said.
Parks Administrator Cliff Bate objected that Parks aren’t for firehalls. Christie said that southeast corner “is no park to me...It’s a mugging area, a junkyard.” Bate said it was a part of the park left in its natural state. “I say it’s junk and not Park,” Christie retorted.
Bate said he doubted a firehall was permissible under the Park Trust. Mayor Peter Pollen said too many attempts were being made to erode the park. The fire chief was asked to prepare a report on alternatives. (Colonist, March 2, 1973, p. 17)
The Times published a letter on March 12 from the Beacon Hill Park Association. They thanked
...the Mayor and those City Aldermen who were against Ald. Christie’s proposal to install a firehall in Beacon Hill Park...We want to see natural areas of the park preserved and the area proposed for a firehall should be left to preserve a balance between natural and developed portions of the park. (Times, March 12, 1973, p.4)
A letter to the Colonist from “Native Victorian” stated, “Fortunately, the city parks director, Mr. Bate, has raised objection [to Tom Christie’s firehall proposal] and for the moment it would appear that the park is safe from this last attempt at misuse.” The writer praised Mr. Anderson, whose protest against the Agricultural Hall constructed in the Park in 1882 resulted in Justice Begbie's 1884 judgment protecting the Park from encroachment. The writer suggested:
Perhaps this judgment should be carved in stone at the entrance to Beacon Hill Park for the benefit of future aldermen who seem confused as to what is private development land and what is park. Perhaps as well the city should name one of the pleasant lanes in the park in memory of Mr. Anderson. (Colonist, March 25, 1973, p. 4)
[The firehall was built several decades later on Michigan Street.]
Suicide in the Park
A middle-aged man was found dead in Beacon Hill Park. The Times reported, “The dead man was found by a passing woman at 12:30 p.m. just north of the Stone Bridge over Goodacre Lake. He was shot through the forehead. A .22 sawed-off rifle lay by his side.” No identification was found and people were asked to help identify him. (Times, March 22, 1973, p. 21)
No Michigan Street extension
Newly elected Ald. Malcolm Anderson said he would vote against any attempt to push Michigan Street through Beacon Hill Park. Anderson was the winner in an aldermanic by-election and became the Parks Committee Chairman, replacing the late Ove Witt. Anderson said traffic problems could be solved in other ways such as staggering work hours of provincial government employees. Anderson mentioned that compared to Vancouver, Victoria doesn’t even have a traffic problem. (Colonist, April 3, 1973)
The following year, at a meeting of the Beacon Hill Park Association, Parks Committee Chairman Ald. Malcolm Anderson said the City would not use any part of Beacon Hill Park for future road building. (Times, Oct. 30, 1974, p. 19)
Crackdown on campers
Private campground and trailer park owners demanded the City stop allowing campers to park for free along Dallas Road. “The only time I fill up is when Dallas Road fills up first,” said Jack Mauch, owner of Inn City Victoria Camper Trailer Park.
Henry Dougan, manager of the Thetis Lake Campground and Trailer Park, said “We’re spending a lot of money to do it right. We want to get some of it back...If people were eating the pheasants in Beacon Hill Park, wouldn’t the police tell them there are stores in town which sell groceries?”
A City bylaw on the books prohibits parking on Dallas Road or in the Park after midnight. “The police, with prudence, will be enforcing the bylaw,” Ald. Malcolm Anderson said. (Times, May 2, 1973, p. 13)
Anderson said the City was considering setting up camper facilities at the north end of the City but quickly reversed himself when the owners of private campgrounds objected. Mauch said, “What does worry me is the City might set up free camping...I just feel like selling out and forgetting the whole damn thing.”
Mauch said the health department makes him give each camper 900 square feet, but campers can line up at the Coho ferry dock overnight for free parked bumper to bumper. A ferry spokesperson said only people with ferry reservations can park overnight. (Times, May 2, 1973, p. 13)
Victoria’s Traffic Committee recommended City Council instruct police to enforce the bylaw against overnight parking of motorized camper vehicles. Information sheets listing campgrounds would be provided for police to hand out. (Colonist, May 16, 1973, p. 21)
Recirculating water in Goodacre Lake system
Since it was constructed in 1932-1933, the water flowing from Fountain Lake to Goodacre Lake in the artificial stream was purchased from the City’s water system. By 1973, Parks Director Cliff Bate said buying gallons of fresh water to flow down the creek every day cost about $1,500 a year. For that reason, the Park switched to a recirculating system in May, 1973. The Colonist described the new system:
Water is pumped from Goodacre Lake through a four inch pipe to Fountain Lake, about 650 feet upstream. Through a fountainhead, the water is pushed about six feet into the air, splashes down into the lake and begins its journey downstream. (Colonist, May 5, 1973, p. 9)
Chairman of the Parks Committee, Alderman Malcolm Anderson, claimed the water in Goodacre Lake was “much clearer” because of better circulation using the pump.
Alex Johnston said about 275 gallons run down the creek every day and is pumped up again. The water runs over seven tiny waterfalls in the descent to Goodacre Lake. Johnston said, “Each of the seven waterfalls is different, causing a different sound, creating a different mood.”
Stream to Goodacre Lake. Photo: N. Ringuette September, 2003
An attempt was made to replace the costly water supply with well water in 1967. The well drilled next to Fountain Lake did not produce enough water, Johnston said, despite the fact that “two water diviners...picked the same spot.” (Colonist, May 5, 1973, p.9)
[In 2004, the intake for the pump is located on the north end of Goodacre Lake near Douglas Street, housed in a rectangular screen box to shield it from debris. The large pump motor operating the recirculating system is located on Blair Island in Goodacre Lake. Assistant Supervisor Al Cunningham would like to move the intake to the east end of Goodacre Lake in order to promote water circulation the whole length of the system.]
Children’s Farmyard opened
On June 16, 1973, the “Garry Oak Farm” officially opened east of the Circle Drive Parking Lot. The Farm stayed open four months a year--June to September--for four hours a day and featured animals loaned by local farmers. From 1973 through 1984, it was operated by Parks Department staff.
Parks Administrator C. J. Bate issued a two-page report on June 5, 1973, titled “Garry Oak Farm--A Children’s Farm Yard Within Beacon Hill Park,” detailing the farmyard’s history and operation. (Park files, 100 Cook Street)
Bate noted Alex Johnston was the key staff person throughout the development of the farmyard. On his own time, Johnston traveled across Canada in 1971 to visit and learn from established children’s farmyards in other cities. His slides provided the basis for discussion and planning of the Beacon Hill Park farmyard.
In preparation for the farmyard, fencing was replaced and the animal enclosure area increased in 1971 and 1972. 10,000 square feet was added to the deer enclosure and approximately 32,000 square feet for the proposed Children’s Farmyard area. Rail or split log fencing was used, with flat board and chain link. The name “Garry Oak Farm” was selected by the men working in Crew No. 1, Beacon Hill Park.
The finished enclosure housed a Shetland pony named Samba, two calves, a pig enclosure with three piglets, a ewe and two lambs, three young goats, rabbits and guinea pigs. There was a lake for the ducks and geese and an open area for guinea hens and pea fowl. To gather these animals for the farmyard, Johnston spent many evening hours visiting local farms, on his own time, to arrange for their lease or purchase.
“Additional features of the farm included Queenie’s grave, her old work cart, a chicken and deer shelter, and a Wishing Well,” Bate wrote. He hoped to provide an area for a pioneer farm equipment display nearby. (Park Dept. Files, 100 Cook Street)
In July, Times staffer Bruce Obee described the action when Ken Harris unlocked the Garry Oak Farm gate each morning at 9 a.m. Obee explained the hogs had to be fed first or they snorted and wailed all day: “Harris has hog-feeding down to a fine art. The trick is to fill the trough, unlock the door before the hogs knock it down and dash out of the pen before the stampede.” To prevent the farm goat from leaping over the fence, a car tire was tied to his collar with a rope. (Times, July 26, 1973, p. 17)
[In 1985, The City decided to stop operating the farm in order to save $20,000. From 1985 to 2004, Dennis and Lynda Koenders have run the farmyard privately, collecting “donations” at the gate. See Chapters 16, 17 and 18 for more details about the farmyard and the controversy arising from private operators collecting money in the Park. The photo above was taken in August, 2004.]
Rock concerts in the Park
After discussing it for a month, the Parks Committee decided to allow three summer rock concerts at the Cameron Bandshell in Beacon Hill Park. The first was scheduled for July 21 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Local promoter Dave Ringland said:
This is good not only that it gives the people under 90 something to listen to in the Park, but it should also quieten complaints from rock musicians that the union doesn’t do anything for them. And what’s more, the city has even come up with a little bread to pay the musicians. (Times, July 14, 1973, p. 23)
It was apparently the pressure from the musicians union--all bands were local--that won Council approval. A $700 grant was allotted by the City for the three shows. Ringland noted the city paid out $3,000 to the symphony to play in the park, so $700 was “only fair.”
Times staffer Bryan Hay added, “I’m keeping my fingers crossed that some last minute hassle won’t come along as has happened in previous years...to kill the whole project.”
Free movies in Beacon Hill
Six weeks of free movies in the Park, sponsored by the City, were scheduled in summer, 1973. Director of the park movie program was James Coey, a student working for the National Film Board under a summer program called Cinepause. The first two films listed were documentaries on wolves and Norman Jewison. (Times, July 16, 1973, p. 6)
Vandals drive on lawns
“Lawns at the Burns Monument and Bay Way [sic] in Beacon Hill Park [were] badly damaged by cars driving over them.” (Colonist, August 31, 1973, p. 7)
Ice on Goodacre Lake
January was cold enough for ice skating on Goodacre Lake. A photo in The Victorian shows boys playing hockey while another photo shows ducks and gulls standing on the ice. (The Victorian, January 9, 1974, p. 6 & 47)
Lakes and islands named
Five small lakes and two islands in the Park were at last officially named. Not one was a surprise. The names given to four small lakes north of Circle Drive had been in common use for years and were printed on 1970 Park maps. The Victorian, a replacement publication during a newspaper strike, listed the names as presented by Park Administrator Cliff Bate: Rose Lake was close to the circular rose garden; Deer Lake was close to the deer pens; Willow Lake had willow trees on its banks; Queen’s Lake featured a bust of Queen Elizabeth. It is not as obvious why the fifth small lake, further north near the Stone Bridge, was called Arbour Lake.
The island in Rose Lake was named Duck Island; the island in Fountain Lake was named Swan Island. City Council grumbled a bit about “unoriginality.” (The Victorian, March 13, 1974, p. 91)
Not mentioned in the article were three islands in Goodacre Lake, also named on 1970 Park maps. Those islands carry the names of three men important in Park history. Near Douglas Street, in the west section of Goodacre Lake, are Blair Island, named for Park designer John Blair, and Warren Island, named for retired Park Administrator W. H. Warren. East of the Stone Bridge, close to Arbutus Way is McTavish Island, named for former City Alderman and Park Chairman Duncan McTavish.
In 2004, carved wooden signs can be seen on every island during the winter. Thick vegetation covers three of the signs during the summer months, but Blair Island--shown in the photo--and McTavish Island signs are always visible.
Rock-faced planters line former road
In March, The Victorian printed three large photos with this caption: “Park crew puts finishing touches to one of a number of new rock-enclosed flower planters in Beacon Hill Park. Planters are located on former roadway now used as a pedestrian path.” (The Victorian, March 29, 1974, p. 94)
Nine stone-faced concrete raised beds were constructed along Park Way, a road for vehicles until 1972. The planters stretch from the beginning of the path at Circle Drive, opposite the main parking lot, to the junction of Bridge Way and Arbutus Way, close to the Cameron Bandshell. Though shaded planters have limited flowers, the ones in full sun are often among the most beautiful floral displays in the Park.
Not everyone thought raised beds were appropriate. In 1976, in a brief to the Parks Committee, the Beacon Hill Park Association called the rock-faced planters along Park Way “ugly and unnecessary.” In 1977, retired Parks Administrator Warren said: “The rock faced planters in the park centre spoil the natural character of the area and this has been confirmed to me by some well informed horticulturists.”
In the photo above left, taken in July, 2004, the old Park Way road sign can still be seen. The photo below, also taken in July, 2004, shows the excellent floral display planted by gardener Margaret Marsden.
Children’s Farmyard budget
Parks Administrator C. J. Bate formally advised Alan Smith and Alex Johnston in May that the $7,210 budget to operate the Children’s Farmyard in 1974 was approved. Wages were $5,510; Supplies $700; Equipment rentals $200; and Miscellaneous $800. The budget did not cover repairs and alternations.
The Farmyard was open four hours daily May 15 to June 28. During summer holidays, from June 29 to September 2, the Farmyard stayed open six hours a day. It was back to four hours starting September 3; the Farmyard closed for the season on September 14. (Bate, File: 1701-1, May 7, 1974, Park Files, 100 Cook Street)
Scots protest golf putting green
A golf putting green was installed next to the Robbie Burns Monument in 1974. Scottish groups were not pleased; they considered a putting green frivolous and an “insult to the Bard.”
Glenn Dyer, first vice-president of the St. Andrew’s and Caledonian Society, said when the city agreed to accept the monument it undertook to keep the surroundings in “respectable” condition, and a putting course was not in keeping with that commitment. “I imagine the Burns Society will be up in arms, too.”
Parks Superintendent Al Smith said, “You’d think this sort of thing would be appropriate. After all, the game originated in Scotland and while this may not be the Royal and Ancient (shrine of golfers at St. Andrew’s in Scotland) at least Burns is overlooking it.” Ald. Malcolm Anderson, of Scottish descent himself, said, ‘It’s really fun golf...we thought it appropriate in the spirit of letting people do their own thing.”
Times staffer Paul Moss noted, “Every year on about January 26, Burns’ anniversary, members of the six Scottish societies in Victoria take part in a mini-pilgrimage to the spot, lay wreaths and then adjourn to the kirk hall for a wee dram.” (Times, June 7, 1974, p. 1)
The Beacon Hill Park Association was in favour of a public putting green, but not in Beacon Hill Park. A letter to the Colonist, signed by John Newberry and Garth Mayhew, explained:
We feel the park should not be further divided up for the games and sports that Victoria may need. There is also a strong need to safeguard the right of the majority of park-goers to enjoy a place that is kept as tranquil as possible. Therefore, we support the idea of a putting green in some other park. (Colonist, June 15, 1974, p. 4)
[The putting green remains one of the most popular features of the Park, used year-round by all ages. The photo above, taken in August, 2004, shows the green with the Burns Monument in the background. Putting doesn't attract rowdy groups; the area is quite "tranquil."]
Woman attacked in Park
A 24-year-old woman was attacked as she walked in Beacon Hill Park near Michigan and Douglas streets at 10 p.m. A man in his twenties grabbed her and tried to pull her to the ground, but she fought back, kicked him in the groin and ran for help. (Times, June 18, 1974, p. 15)
Car submerged in Goodacre Lake
Police were notified at 6:30 a.m. that a car roof was visible in Goodacre Lake. Police concluded the car drove off Bridge Way about 30 feet south of the Stone Bridge, traveled across a flower patch and ended up in the lake about 20 feet from shore. Tow-truck driver Gary Martin swam to the car with a cable to haul it out. Police discovered it had been stolen.
The car destroyed about fifteen tuberous begonias. The tow truck cable damaged a holly tree pulling out the car. (Colonist, July 11, 1974, p. 11)
Rock music again
City Council fussed again about allowing rock music at the Cameron Bandshell, but ended up approving a two-day variety entertainment show including “some rock music.” Ald. Hood reminded Council that “amplified” music had resulted in previous resident complaints in a 2 ½ mile radius around the Park; he hoped the music could be “muted.”
Ald. Malcolm Anderson was in favour of the show, organized by the Sunrise Foundation. He said, “I’ll be down there...Considering they are all amateur entertainers, we should try to give them every consideration.” Hood asked if Anderson would publicize his home phone number so people would call him to complain.
Sunrise spokesman Jordan Hughes, 19, said “The whole thing is designed as promotion for a future coffee house, so we don’t want a negative reaction from anyone.” The coffeehouse would be a gathering place for young people. (Times, August 9, 1974, p. 15)
Pioneer Village proposed
Cliff Bate presented the idea of a Memory Lane development in Beacon Hill Park at a meeting of the Beacon Hill Park Association. He said it would be “a grouping of pioneer artifacts, with a log cabin, a blacksmith shop and a home or garden of the pioneer era.” The idea had been discussed seriously by Park staff for three years, but it had been a dream of Park employee Alex Johnston for twenty years.
Seven aldermanic candidates attended the BHP Association meeting, held in the Provincial Museum. Murray Glazier, one of the candidates, said he was “distressed” to hear of the proposal because there was a plan for a detailed pioneer village in Central Saanich and pioneer displays were also being built in the Museum. He thought there was “the danger of diluting.” Three other candidates said they were against further development in the Park. (Colonist, October 30, 1974, p. 10)
[The Pioneer Village was not built in Beacon Hill Park. People can visit the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society, an excellent volunteer-run facility.]
First female Park employee hired
The first female was hired to work at the Park Department office in the maintenance yard. Clara Rickman began work as the secretary in December, 1974. Previous Park Department secretaries were male. [See January, 1975, for discussion of staff washroom facilities.]
Crumpled Keel plaque installed
An information plaque was installed on December 6, 1974 next to the Crumpled Keel at the northwest corner of Beacon Hill Park. (Park Files, 100 Cook St.) When the Crumpled Keel was first placed at the corner is unknown. The information on the plaque states:
On November 6, 1889, Lord Stanley, Governor General of Canada, embarked for Vancouver following a visit to Victoria. H.M.S. Amphion carried the vice-regal party and, while travelling in fog, struck a sunken reef off Killett Bluff, Henry Island. The ship was extremely damaged but returned safely to Esquimalt. The bilge keel or rolling chock was crumpled like a concertina as exhibited here.
[In 2003, Victoria art critic Robert Amos wrote: “Perhaps the most dynamic abstract sculpture in the city is a ‘found object’--the crumpled keel of a steamship which ran on a rock, displayed as sculpture at the entrance to Beacon Hill Park off Douglas Street.” (TimesColonist, July 3, 2003, p. D 9)]
City can afford animal feed
The Parks Committee Chairman, Alderman Malcolm Anderson, was asked by the Colonist if the City of Victoria might feed some animals and birds in the Beacon Hill Park zoo to other animals in order to save money. The question arose after news reports were received that a zoo in Cardiff, Wales considered that alternative. Anderson responded:
Actually, we just have about 20 guinea pigs, 20 rabbits, three deer and one pony over the winter. We get greens from a friendly James Bay grocery store and we buy 30 or 40 bales of hay which costs about $100. Even in the summer our feed bill is not high.
Anderson explained the pigs, goats and sheep seen in the Children’s Petting Farm during the summer were rented from farms and returned in the fall. Birds wintering in the Park zoo included about 12 peafowl, some chickens and geese. The Colonist concluded, “The crunch-your-friends-for-lunch craze won’t catch on at Victoria’s small zoo...” (Colonist, January 12, 1975, p. 15)
First female employee gets a washroom
The construction of a separate washroom was approved by City Council for the first female hired to work at the maintenance yard of the Parks Department in Beacon Hill Park.
Park Administrator Cliff Bate told City Council “the situation was both embarrassing and intolerable” because Clara Rickman, who began work as a secretary in December, 1974, had to share one “very heavily used” washroom with male colleagues. Council approved a second washroom at a cost of about $2,250.
Bate said he intended to employ more women outside and in the plant nursery. In a recent visit to England, he saw many female gardeners employed. Bate said, “Female bedding-out crews work in the parks.”
The newspaper article concluded: “Aldermen hooted with male chauvinist laughter.” (Times, January 23, 1975, p. 17)
City workers strike affects flowers
Parks Department staff were on strike in February, along with other City employees belonging to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Parks Committee Chairman Ald. Clyde Savage told the annual general meeting of the Beacon Hill Park Association that without more workers, the transplanting necessary for city flowerbeds and hanging baskets might not be possible. Some aldermen were helping Park Administrator Cliff Bate and his assistant in the Nursery. Savage asked the Association membership for volunteers. (Colonist, February 27, 1975, p. 13)
Lookout Shelter recommendation
In July, Cliff Bate recommended to City Council that the Beacon Hill Shelter be torn down and picnic tables placed on its concrete floor. Alderman Sam Bawff thought it could be a tea room or meeting centre. Council decided to investigate alternatives. (Colonist, July 24, 1975, p. 20)
Vandalism in City parks
News about Beacon Hill Park’s vandalism was a bright spot in an otherwise grim report. Parks Administrator Cliff Bate said total damage in 1975 in all city parks was more than $5,000, compared to the previous year’s vandalism total of $2,833. Included were twelve hanging baskets stolen from lamp posts. In Beacon Hill Park, however, the damage in 1975 was only $524. (Times, January 21, 1976, p. 13)
Mallard pierced with arrow
SPCA officials had to shoot a Beacon Hill Park mallard in February. The Colonist reported: “Manager Don Adams said a foot-long arrow had cut through the bird’s stomach cavity and intestines, then come out of its chest.” SPCA inspectors tried to catch the duck first but were not successful. It is illegal to use crossbows in the City and illegal to shoot ducks. A photo showed the suffering duck swimming with the arrow protruding from both sides of its body. (Colonist, February 12, 1976, p. 1)
Park budget cuts
A Colonist editorial was in favour of cutting new parks projects instead of reducing parks maintenance:
The City of Gardens is cutting its parks budget... The $2.1 million needed to keep up the good work of parks development and maintenance is being reduced by $211,000 with $164,000 of that from upkeep expenses and the remaining $47,000 from capital spending on additional beautification... Priorities could be out of kilter. Keep what we’ve got up to scratch and cut capital expenditures more. When the city gets out of its financial fix, then on with expansion of the parks program. (Colonist, April 4, 1976, p. 4)
Hoo-Hoo picnic shelter proposed
The Victoria club of the International Order of Hoo-Hoo proposed building a large picnic shelter for fifty people in Beacon Hill Park, to be called “Hoo-Hoo Shelter.” They offered to spend up to $3,000 to build the wooden picnic shelter. If approved, the club would complete the shelter by the next spring. Their plans included a concrete pad with log uprights, beams and a shake roof.
The Parks Committee expressed enthusiasm and asked Parks Administrator Cliff Bate to consult with the group on details. Chairman Ald. McKenzie suggested informing the Beacon Hill Park Association, which he said was “very vocal on occasion” concerning park development. (Times, June 18, 1976, p. 7)
[The oddly named “Hoo-Hoo” is an organization for men in the lumber industry. In 2004, their website explained the “International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo” was one of the largest and oldest fraternal organizations in U.S. history. It was established in 1892 to unify all aspects of the lumber industry under one lumber fraternity. The Hoo-Hoo can be considered the "Public Relations Department of the Lumber Industry."]
In July, responding to the Hoo Hoo shelter plan, the Beacon Hill Park Association urged the Parks Committee to freeze all further development in the Park until a comprehensive plan was established. President John Newberry and Vice President Terry Reksten said they were concerned that park development took place in an ad hoc, piecemeal manner, with no over-all plan.
Reksten complimented the “Hoo-Hoo’s” on the public spirited picnic shelter proposal, but said it should not proceed until a plan for over-all development was prepared. “If new construction is not the result of careful planning, you will be making more mistakes which will be hard to correct,” Reksten said. [City Council declined the Hoo Hoo offer on September 29, 1977.]
The Committee was told the Association would have a detailed brief ready by the end of the summer. A public hearing was planned to ask for public input. (Times, July 22, 1976, p. 9)
Development freeze urged for Park
In an article published before the presentation of the Beacon Hill Park Association’s nineteen page brief to the Parks Committee, Times staffer Paul Moss wrote: “The brief repeats the Association’s request to Council earlier this summer for a freeze on all further development until a comprehensive policy has been established...”
Moss explained that Association Vice-President Terry Reksten researched and wrote the brief as part of the group’s campaign to preserve the Park from misuse and encroachment. Reksten said: “The Park is all too often regarded as a city-owned vacant lot, as a conveniently inexpensive site for public buildings and public roads.”
The brief stated: “[The Park] is endangered by the lack of a coherent plan. It is endangered by the ‘improvements’ and a park policy which does not recognize the validity of the motto ‘Leave well enough alone.’”
The brief pointed out that almost all Beacon Hill’s attractions were crammed into a small area in the centre, less than 15% of the Park, while other areas “have become alienated from general use.” Examples of alienation were the private sports clubs and the city-wide maintenance yard on the eastern edge of the Park.
The brief criticized the layout of the two main children’s areas. Busy roads separated the playground from Garry Oak Farm. The chain-link fencing of the Farm was “neither park-like or farm-like.” The rock-faced planters built along Park Way were called “ugly and unnecessary.” (Times, September 22, 1976, p. 15)
Ald. Bob Ellis spoke against the Beacon Hill Park Association’s idea of a comprehensive Park plan. Ellis thought people’s needs at any given time was a good enough plan:
We get bombarded by concerned citizens demanding that we have to have a neighborhood plan, a community plan, a parks plan or some other damn fool plan, which says this is the way it’s going to be forever. Beacon Hill Park was not designed to please or accommodate any particular group but to please as many people as possible all the time. (Times, September 23, 1976, p. 11)
Ald. Helen Beirnes rejected the brief as well and disliked the Association’s talk of “alienation” from general use. She complained they seemed to want the Park to be “a mass of green for people to walk in,” but said the Park must be for many uses. “We would rather have the youngsters play games there than turn out to be juvenile delinquents.”
Two aldermen responded more positively to the brief. Committee Chairman Ald. Ron McKenzie agreed there was merit in having a plan for the future and not having “piecemeal” development. Mayor Mike Young liked the suggestion to “Leave well enough alone.” He said that would be “appropriate, inexpensive and very satisfactory.” He, too, disliked the rock wall planters.
Cliff Bate was asked to submit a report outlining his perspectives on the Association’s brief. (Times, September 23, 1976, p. 11)
The Colonist coverage of the brief presentation quoted Committee Chairman McKenzie’s statement that planning was necessary to avoid “ending up with 50 different parcels in the park, catering to 50 different groups.” (Colonist, September 24, 1976, p. 13)
A Times editorial praised the Beacon Hill Park Association’s “carefully-researched and unhysterical brief,” and took some members of the Parks Committee to task for their “juvenile and ill-informed” response. “The Association is not calling for a return to the wild or the removal of the numerous sports facilities already in place there.”
The editorial stated the survival of the Park “in even its present disfigured form is by no means assured.” Citizen activists like the BHPA were important in preserving the Park throughout its history:
Only the public outcry prevented a new fire hall from being located there, or a proposed street widening scheme that would have cut off a piece.
The park has been allowed to grow like Topsy with bits and so-called attractions added on and other pieces taken away and alienated from general use until today it rather resembles an overloaded Christmas tree. That it is still a pleasant place to be despite the often heavy-handed changes made, is a tribute to its strong natural qualities and appeal--not any deliberate manmade attempts to enhance those qualities. (Times, October 23, 1976, p. 4)
Parks Administrator Cliff Bate issued a report in early December in response to the Beacon Hill Park Association’s call for a halt to development, a master plan, and preservation of more natural areas. Bate disagreed completely with the Association’s criticisms and suggestions and declared the mix of uses in the park almost “perfect” as it was.
Bate said the Park was “well-developed to provide a quality park experience for all park visitors.” He listed the park centre, with flowers, bandshell, picnic areas, playground, toilets and parking, the perimeter with active sports grounds, and the “natural or semi-natural” half of the park. Bate concluded: “I feel the procedure is near perfect.”
His recommendation to the Parks Committee was: “Retain status-quo procedure for development of Beacon Hill Park.” The Committee agreed. (Colonist, December 3, 1976, p. 31)
At the end of December, Ald. McKenzie announced the status quo would prevail in Beacon Hill Park for the following year. Flowerbeds had been cut back already and would probably not be reduced further. He agreed with the BHP Association that there should be restraint in further development; he thought capital projects should take place in other parks and there should be no more improvement projects in Beacon Hill. McKenzie said he had voted to complete several projects “last year” only because they were already underway. These included a planter and pavement at the Lookout area. He was in favour of relocating the City’s Parks Maintenance yard to free up valuable park space in Beacon Hill. (Colonist, December 31, 1976, p. 19)
Park worker’s poem etched in stone
A photo in The Victorian showed Frank Pitts standing next to a large granite monument in Beacon Hill Park engraved with his poem “The Garry Oak.” Though awkward, flowery and full of stock phrases, it was the sincere effort of a retired Parks Department employee. It reads:
You ancient monarch of the wood.
Chieftain of the race,
Your rugged coat, your outspread limbs,
The devastation of time has stood.
From hearts of oak great ships were built,
They sailed the seven seas,
Through battle smoke they stood the shock,
Upheld the name true hearts of oak.
Pitts was a part-time caretaker for 15 years at Gonzales Bay and did not work in Beacon Hill Park. (The Victorian, July 14, 1976) [In 2004, the monument stands in front of the same giant oak a few feet east of Arbutus Way near Goodacre Lake.]
Five year progress report
Parks Administator C. J. Bate issued a two page report dated November, 23,1976, titled “Renovation and New Development - Beacon Hill Park.” The first paragraph was a general statement about the Park and its assets.
The next section, titled “Synopsis of Development - Beacon Hill Park” included a paragraph on each of three previous eras in Park development: “Blair Plan Years,” “Purdy Years (1914-1930)” [sic], and “Warren Years (1930-1970).” [The paragraphs appear earlier in this history and will not be repeated here. The Blair Plan paragraph appears near the end of Chapter 6. For Bate’s assessment of the Purdy years, see the beginning of Chapter Ten. Bate’s comments on Warren appear in this chapter under 1970.]
Under the heading “1971 - 1975 Years,” Bate wrote: “The following changes represent the major renovation, replacement or new development projects completed 1971-1975.” In this section, Bate summarized the highlights of the last five years under his administration:
1. Closure of the Upper Nursery Road, Lovers Lane and portion of Parkway east of Bandshell.
2. Conversion of former horse enclosure and barns to seasonal children’s farm yard.
3. Removal of caretaker’s residence - park center.
4. Construction of maintenance centre for Beacon Hill Park crew operations, replacing the shack town assembly of buildings in the same area.
5. Installation of a water return system between Goodacre Lake and Fountain Lake.
6. Construction of combination public toilets and change rooms east of tennis courts - Cook Street.
7. Installation of imaginative play equipment in park center. (November 23, 1976, File: 1701-2, Park Office)
Royal Silver Jubilee celebrations
Mayor Mike Young suggested Victoria organize a celebration to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s twenty five years on the throne. London, England and other cities in the Commonwealth held Royal Jubilee celebrations in June, but Victoria barely started planning on June 1. For that reason, the great event was scheduled for August 12. Port Angeles, Washington agreed to light a huge bonfire in response to a planned bonfire at Beacon Hill. (Times, June 1 & July 28, 1977 & Colonist, June 12 & August 6, 1977)
The day after the gala event, the Colonist reported, “Some of the Silver Jubilee events were spectacularly successful. Others were a spectacular washout.”
August 12 events began at noon with a fly-over and naval maneuvers. “Several thousand” people came to Beacon Hill to watch “the display of naval might” but most went away laughing. “Half a dozen boats and two old planes circling overhead,” said one. Ald. Carson was waiting for the promised “high-speed search and destroy maneuver” but it never happened.
At 2 p.m., a military parade formed at Beacon Hill and marched downtown past a reviewing stand at the Empress. 1,000 service men and women and cadets, led by two Mounties on horseback, were an impressive sight and crowds cheered them the length of the march. At 7:30 p.m. a black powder and rifle salute was performed by the buckskin-clad Malahat Marauders at Finlayson Point.
The highlight of the celebration was Jock Dunbar’s Jubilee Show presented on a portable stage set up at Finlayson Point, immediately below the Lookout. The show featured the Canadian Scottish regimental pipe band, the Adelines and the Duncan Scottish dancers. At the conclusion of the show the Fire Department staged a torchlight parade down Dallas Road, with five fire trucks, sirens blaring, and firefighters carrying flares. At l0 p.m. a fifteen minute fireworks display was set off from Finlayson Point over the water. Firemen had wet down the area before the fireworks and circulated through the crowd with water packs ready to quell any fires in the dry grass. (Colonist, August 12, 1977)
Fitness Trail proposed
A 1 ½ mile fitness trail with exercise stations, called a “participark” was proposed for Beacon Hill Park. John Wilson told the Parks Committee the Canada fitness program “Participation” endorsed the concept of jogging-exercise stations. The Kinsmen Club was ready to install the trails, exercise stations and signs. Wilson asked the City to approve and maintain the pathway.
The Times wrote: “Aldermen noted the park is already over-used and over-developed, but Wilson said a designated trail would channel joggers. A surfaced trail would save wear and tear on the grass. The pathway would curb helter-skelter jogging.” Committee Chairman McKenzie asked Wilson to prepare a detailed brief and to talk with the BHP Association and the City Manager. (Times, July 8, 1977, p. 23)
Mayors Grove deteriorating
Columnist James Nesbitt criticized the City for allowing Mayors Grove to deteriorate. “Something should certainly be done now to fix up the Mayors Grove,” he declared. Nesbitt remembered it as “one of the loveliest stretches of the park--sort of wild meadowland, a glory of daffodils under the towering oaks.”
Nesbitt then applauded the Beacon Hill Park Association for doing “good work: I tremble to think what the powers-that-be might do to Beacon Hill Park without their protests and suggestions.”
He concluded with a blast at the rock planters: “Leave it as natural as possible...why stone flower beds were put in I’ll never know. What’s wrong with planting flowers in the open ground, as nature intended them to be planted?” (Colonist, Oct. 23, 1977, p. 6 Mag.)
No revenue from the Park
A Times editorial highlighted questions asked of Parks Committee Chairman Ald. Ron McKenzie at an all-candidates meeting in November: What was the cost of keeping Beacon Hill open per year? McKenzie’s answer was about $300,000. Did the Park return any revenue to the City? No. Then the questioner said, why is a deficit at the City swimming pool considered a “loss” and a $300,000 expenditure on the Park is not? (Times, November 21, 1977, p. 4)
Park vandalism down
Vandalism in city parks totaled $3,797 in 1977 compared with $6,578 the year before. Parks Committee Chairman Ald. Robin Blencoe said it was an encouraging sign. He said it wasn’t fair “to blame all kids and throw doubt on all kids.” In Beacon Hill Park, vandals did $662 damage, down from $920 the year before.
In January, after watching a young swan sitting on the ice five days neither eating or drinking, Edmonton visitor Mary Robbins contacted the SPCA and the Parks Department, the Times reported. When no action was taken, Robbins was horrified. “I couldn’t believe it when nothing happened,” she said.
SPCA manager Don Adams said, “I’m not going to interfere. It’s a natural phenomenon. You can’t interfere with nature.” Robbins assumed the young swan was “shunned” by its parents, and assumed it didn’t eat or drink when she wasn’t watching. (Times, January 5, 1979, p. 15)
Vandalism higher in City parks
Parks Administrator Cliff Bate said damage to Victoria parks reached an all-time high of $9,591 in 1978, compared to $3,787 in 1977. Vandalism in Beacon Hill Park was $2,996 compared to $662 the year before. “Toilets at Cook and Dallas were firebombed (gas in beer bottle), 21 pansies damaged by car, one concrete and wood bench damaged beyond repair, door to birdcage badly smashed, theft of plants and flowers increased.” (Times, February 13, 1979, p. 2) The huge increase was in contrast to 1978, when vandalism in parks declined and Parks Chairman Robin Blencoe said it was an encouraging sign.
New cricket clubhouse doubled in size
The Parks Committee “tentatively backed plans for a new cricket clubhouse in Beacon Hill Park,” sending the plans to the “advisory design panel before making a final decision,” the Times reported in January.
The old cricket clubhouse burned down in 1978. The Victoria and District Cricket Association planned a $60,000 replacement, designed by architect Nicholas Bawlf, which would double the size of the old building. Ald. McElroy said the city should be careful about allowing too much encroachment. City Manager Jim Bramley said, “Being against cricket in Victoria is like being against motherhood.” (Times, January 31, 1979, p. 14)
In May, a long letter from Beacon Hill Park Association President Carson was printed in the Colonist. The BHPA opposed the construction of a cricket clubhouse 100% larger in size, protested public financing of the private clubhouse and opposed the expanded uses planned:
The building will cost $70,000. The initial $20,000 is a special lottery grant to the Victoria and District Cricket Association (VDCA) by the provincial secretary. City Council approved $20,000, and $30,000 will be the VDCA’s “gift” to the park. It is clear that public funds will construct a private clubhouse in a public park.
The former thirties building, made from two vandalized public restrooms, had minimal facilities--no electricity...The new pavilion, two stories and double the size, is hardly a replacement.
...the design calls for storage, shower and changing rooms, ladies’ washroom, foyer, children’s room/office, upstairs lounge and kitchen with bar and dishwasher, veranda and scorer’s deck. A cupola and weather-vane make it highly visible. Radical innovations provide indoor spaces not directly related to the playing of cricket.
The park can be whittled away. Its ultimate defense is informed public opinion and good sense. Mayors and councils may be in ignorance or indifferent to their trust, confused or complacent, harassed or bamboozled, or pre-occupied with elections. (Colonist, May 3, 1979, p. 5)
The BHPA urged that construction be delayed and a more modest, single story building be considered.
A June Times editorial supported the BHPA position:
Victoria is not blessed with such an overabundance of park land that it can allow portions of its public parks to be cordoned off. One basic principle ought to guide city officials...what is the best use of our limited space? The Beacon Hill Park Association recently pointed out that a new cricket pavilion being built on the east side of the park certainly does not meet the test...Multiple use ought to be the guiding concept of parks planners. Facilities built and maintained with public funds should not be reserved for private clubs and organizations. (Times, June 15, 1979, p. 4)
[Despite protests, the two-story cricket clubhouse was completed. The photo above shows the building on a busy Sunday in August, 2004.]
Cliff Bate retired after nine years as Parks Administrator. Long-time Park employee Al Smith was named Parks Administrator in July, 1979.
Nothing to vandalize if nothing there
Columnist Hubert Beyer pointed out the City’s recent decision to remove a damaged downtown bench instead of repairing it so that it could not be vandalized again was similar to stopping vandalism at Beacon Hill Park by “cutting down all trees, filling in the lakes and ponds and plowing the whole mess under to make room for a parking lot.” (Colonist, August 15, 1979, p. 11)
Gay men meet in the Southeast Woods
City of Victoria Police recommended to the Parks Committee that Lover’s Lane, in the southeast corner of Beacon Hill Park, be reopened to traffic. The police wanted one-way traffic as a crime prevention measure. The Colonist reported:
Numerous robberies and six incidents of indecent acts on children of both sexes had occurred in that area in the last few months, according to a police report. Sporadic surveillance in the last three weeks had shown between five and 20 males, identified as homosexual and attempting to meet someone of similar persuasion, frequenting the area.
The police blamed the homosexuals for being “victims of robbery” as well as for “acts toward male children of tender years.” The police wanted to open Lover’s Lane to one way car traffic because “Members of the public seldom use the lane, thereby leaving the woods to the homosexuals,” their report stated.
Parks Administrator Al Smith suggested either replacing the barriers with locked gates to allow only police access or opening the road and restricting it to police and maintenance vehicles. The Committee thought none of the ideas were workable. (Colonist, August 15, 1979, p. 11)
[The photo shows a pleasant wooded path through the area in August, 2004. Gay men using the Southeast Woods as a meeting area continues to be a point of contention. In December, 2003, after complaints from neighbours, the City built a fence near the corner of Dallas and Cook. The fence was apparently an effort to stop gays from cutting through the brush into the Southeast Woods after parking along Cook Street. It is, however, just as easy to walk around the end of the fence.]
50th anniversary of Churchill’s tree
In 1929, Winston Churchill planted an English hawthorn sapling at Mayors Grove in Beacon Hill Park. September 6, 1979 marked the 50th anniversary of the tree planting. It was Churchill's last act before boarding the Seattle-bound steamer to begin his return to Great Britain after a month-long tour of Canada. (Colonist, September 7, 1979, p. 11)
Not large or distinctive but still alive, Churchill’s hawthorn is shown in the October, 2005 photo below. The tree stands near Southgate Street and a few metres west of the ball diamond. The plaque at its base states: “The Right Honourable Winston L. S. Churchill planted this tree September 6, 1929.” Since 1999, a group has gathered each year at the tree on a Sunday in January to toast the anniversary of Churchill’s death in 1965.
City candidates answer Association question
The Beacon Hill Park Association (BHPA) asked the following question of all aldermanic and mayoralty candidates in the November election:
Are you in favor of a moratorium on development in Beacon Hill Park until a publicly accepted comprehensive plan for the park is worked out, “development” referring to the implementation of sidewalks, paths, and parking facilities, as well as buildings and new roads, etc., emergencies being excepted? (Times, November 14, 1979, p. 30)
All four mayoralty candidates and all aldermanic candidates but Ald. Bob Wright said yes. (Times, November 14, 1979)
Feeding program for ducks proposed
In December, Francis Rutland, identified by the Colonist as the “official friend of the duck,” proposed the City start a feeding program for ducks in Beacon Hill Park.
Three times a week, Rutland bought barley and distributed it at lake and pond locations in the Park. Rutland said she purchased wheat previously but high prices forced her to switch to barley, which costs $4.35 for a 10 kilogram bag. She estimated she had spent $800 on grain since she began the feeding program. (Colonist, December 20, 1979, p. 13)
Following the publicity, Rutland received a donation cheque for $10 and offers of wheat, but the City did not respond with an official feeding program. [A previous proposal for a City duck-feeding program in 1971 also got nowhere. The City built concrete platforms for people to feed ducks in 1984, but in 1995, erected “Don’t feed the ducks” signs at the platforms.]