The only young swan in Beacon Hill Park died during a cold spell. Parks Director Al Smith said the cygnet wasn’t old enough to withstand January’s cold weather: "He was just under a year and at that age, cygnets are very susceptible to pneumonia. But we have a mated pair and we were assured that the female would have another 15 egg-producing years left." In future cold spells, Smith said, young swans would be put into a more sheltered area. (Colonist, February 6, 1980, p. 13)
No beer garden
A beer garden to raise money for the United Way was proposed for Beacon Hill Park in conjunction with the Royal Victoria Marathon. The suggested location for the September beer sales was the grassy field in front of the totem pole. Parks Administrator Al Smith and Parks Committee Chairman Ald. Ken Sinclair gave preliminary approval, but other members of the Parks Committee disagreed. According to a Times report, “Aldermen said the park...should be kept free of all commercial activity, even if in aid of charity.” Ald. Bill McElroy thought approval of the application would lead to an avalanche of proposals for money-making ventures in the Park and that Beacon Hill Park should remain “sacrosanct.” The Parks Committee rejected the proposal. (Times, May 14, 1980, p. 23)
Palm trees in the Park
Windmill palm trees growing in Beacon Hill Park were featured in the Times in June. Parks Administrator Al Smith said they were the most hardy of the palms and could tolerate some below-freezing weather. “They succumb only in the extremely cold weather.” The largest windmill palm in the Park was lost in the severe winter of 1970. The East Asian windmill or Chusan palm was identified in the paper by the outdated Latin name Chamaerops excelsa. The palm is now known as Trachycarpus fortunei. (Times, June 9, 1980, p. 13) [In 2004, there are six windmill palms growing in the Park. Three are near the old aviary building, west of the Stone Bridge; three others are near Fountain Lake. Hundreds of palm trees flourish elsewhere in Victoria.]
New Giant Canadian flag
A brand-new “jumbo” Canadian flag was donated on July 1, Canada Day, by the Victoria Village Squires, a barbershop singing group. The new 4.6 metres by 2.3 metres flag replaced the “tiny flag” formerly flying on top of Beacon Hill. The old flag’s condition and size had been criticized earlier in a letter to the Colonist.
Soon after, there were rumours the new flag had been stolen. Youths were caught by police with 100 feet of rope taken from the flagpole. The flag, however, had been taken down at sunset and was safely stored. The cost of replacing the rope was estimated at $750. (Colonist, July 8, 1980, p.1) [For more on the flag and pole see 1983, 1984 and 1988.]
Flawed Park statistics announced
Ald. Ken Sinclair, Chairman of the Parks Committee requested square footage figures for all features in the Park, including paths, buildings and roads. Asst. Park Administrator Ron Edwards responded in a detailed report to City Council in June.
City Council and both newspapers accepted the figures presented as accurate; there were no questions about how the precise square footage measurements were reached. Unnoticed was at least one fundamental mistake made by Edwards. This error meant every percentage figure presented was incorrect.
Edwards stated the total area of green space, paths, buildings and roads in Beacon Hill Park--the total Park acreage--was precisely 8,015,040 square feet. (Colonist, June 28, 1980, p. 15) One acre is 43,560 sq. ft.; therefore, the total number of Park acres used in the report was 184. When Edwards presented percentages, however, he used the lower figure of 154 acres without acknowledgment, thus skewing results.
During his forty years as Parks Administrator, W. H. Warren consistently used the total Park acreage figure of 154 acres. When doing so, he knowingly excluded thirty acres of land officially part of the Park but covered by city streets (Douglas Street, Dallas Road, Southgate Street, Heywood Avenue and Park Boulevard). Most City publications through the years also used the 154 acre figure, which represented useable Park acreage.
It is correct to use the 184 acre figure. When doing so, however, it should be noted that total includes thirty acres of asphalt on boundary streets. [In 2004, the Heritage Landscape Management Plan draft report used the 184 acres total but did not make this clear.] Edwards was not consistent; he began with the 184 acre figure and then excluded the thirty acres of city streets from all percentage figures.
His report stated there were 693,365 square feet of total blacktop (roads and parking lots) inside the park for a total of 15.92 acres. He concluded that blacktop equaled 8.65% of the Park’s 184 acres. If Edwards had followed through correctly and included thirty acres of boundary roads in the blacktop total, the numbers would have been 45.92 acres, an astonishing 25% of Beacon Hill Park. Intentionally or unintentionally, the figures Edwards presented was much lower.
All other percentage figures were incorrect for the same reason.
The Colonist, stated: “The report leaves nothing to conjecture. Every square foot of Beacon Hill Park is present and accounted for.” Other figures presented by Edwards were: Lovers Lane, 14,400 square feet; the bird cage, 625 square feet; paths, 80,900 square feet; parking lots, 55,615 square feet; buildings, 40,124 square feet. The paper concluded: “Total area covered by tar, gravel and buildings is 9.15 per cent of the Park.” (Colonist, June 28, 1980, p. 15)
[It is not clear if any of Edwards square footage figures are correct. In June, 2004, Ted Isaacs, City of Victoria Engineering Department, stated that measurements of roads, buildings, sports fields and other features of the Park were not available. Even with the aid of digital maps and advanced computer mapping programs, Isaacs said it would take many hours to work out the figures.]
Two policemen called to deal with a disturbance near the Heywood Avenue softball diamond were beaten by five youths in July. Constable Gibson and Constable Arin Smith, responding to a complaint about a damaged car just before midnight, approached the group and were attacked. Gibson was beaten to the ground and Smith was hit. Canadian Forces personnel who happened to be nearby went to their aid and police reinforcements arrived quickly, taking the youths into custody. (Times Colonist, July 12, 1981, p. 1)
Alcohol and music in the Park
A Times Colonist editorial in August titled “Booze in the Park” pointed out that though consumption of alcohol in a public place was prohibited by British Columbia’s Liquor Control Act, there were many violations at the “Homegrown Music” concert in Beacon Hill Park. The writer stated the predominantly young crowd “brought along vast quantities of beer, wine and liquor and proceeded to drink it openly and blatantly, apparently without the slightest awareness or concern that they were breaking the law.” The newspaper asked why no charges were laid. (Times Colonist, August 5, 1981, p. 4)
A letter in response from Captain Gordon Mesley, of the Homegrown Music Society, said the purpose of the “Music in the Park” was to showcase Vancouver Island talent and that organizers reminded the audience drinking alcohol was illegal.
A second letter, from a woman who attended the concert, said: “This was the spirit of the day: families got together to enjoy the holiday, listen to the music and have a picnic in the park with their friends.” She pointed out one singer even ad-libbed “do not drink in the park, it’s against the law” into one of his songs. Nobody was drinking near her. (Times Colonist, August 13, 1981, p. 4)
Angry letters about concert noise were presented to City Council by Parks Committee Chairman Ken Sinclair, who said: “I want this type of music banned.” One letter to Council claimed, “We dread every Wednesday evening with the over-amplified rock concerts. The all-day affair August 3 was a nightmare.” Another wrote:
From early morning until after 10 p.m., the noise from the amplifiers, the tremendous volume of traffic, the arrogant disregard for the bylaws, spoiled the entire day for the area surrounding the Park. There is no way to avoid the noise. It could be heard as far away as Richardson and Moss Streets, as well as Victoria General Hospital.
Aldermen asked staff to prepare a proposal for controlling Beacon Hill Park concerts. (Times Colonist, September 2, 1981, p. 13)
Comment on the concert continued in October. Brian Davis wrote to correct “the meagre crew of complainers.” He said, “The Victoria Parks and Recreation Committee and its Chairman Ald. Ken Sinclair sure don’t know what they’re talking about.” Davis stressed two facts about the free Music in the Park during the B. C. Day celebration. The concert did not last all day; it began at 11:30 a.m. and ended about 9 p.m. It was not continuous music; there was one 30-35 minute set each hour.
Of the ten acts there was folk, acoustic country, rhythm and blues, jazz stylings and yes, a couple of rock bands. In actuality, the die-hard rock fan would have been disappointed...From what Sinclair and cohorts are describing, over 5,000 people sure missed one hell of a festival going on somewhere else in Beacon Hill Park. (Times Colonist, October 18, 1981. P. 8)
Aviary birds slaughtered
Forty-eight birds in the Beacon Hill Park aviary were slaughtered during a weekend in August, their bodies found Monday morning strewn around their cages. Twenty-nine ringneck doves, nine budgies, nine canaries and one cockatiel were clubbed and jabbed with a pointed stick. Some were disemboweled and decapitated. The birds were valued at $1,200. The Times Colonist reported:
SPCA Inspector Rick West said the carnage was apparently the work of one person, judging by footprints left behind and the confined space inside the aviary. A padlock was snapped off a door and a ladder used to reach the birds in the upper levels of the carousel cage.
A few birds survived and some probably flew away. The aviary keeper was on holiday so the number was not known. “The person must have been in there for some length of time,” West said. (Times Colonist, August 18, 1981, p. 1)
The City of Victoria offered a $1,000 reward in an effort to catch the person who slaughtered the birds, with the SPCA coordinating the reward fund. Parks Administrator Al Smith said, “We can take most of the vandalism but senseless killing like this is just crazy.” He thought a big reward might encourage someone to step forward. “It’s not much of a feat for whoever did it if he can’t brag about it.” (Times Colonist, August 19, 1981, p. 6)
A spokesperson for the Parks Department said the birds would not be replaced until Council arranged for the installation of an alarm system. “People have offered us birds but there is no point in putting them in there just so it can happen all over again,” he said. There were no leads in finding the perpetrator. (Times Colonist, August 21, 1981, p. 13)
[The aviary stood empty for almost a year while improvements were made. In July, 1982, the newspaper announced: “The aviary at Beacon Hill Park is equipped with an alarm system, lighting and heating. Now all it needs is birds to replace the ones that were slaughtered a year ago.” Park Superintendent Alex Johnston hoped birds will be donated because with parks budget cuts, there was no money to buy birds. (Times Colonist, July 20, 1982, p. 11) By August, the aviary was nearly full. Johnston said “donations of budgies, canaries, doves, cockatiels and rosellas have filled the cages.” He said the aviary could use a few more finches and cockatiels. Money donated would be used to buy additional birds. (Times Colonist, August 15, 1982, p. 4) The aviary was permanently closed in 1989, according to the "Heritage Impact Study: Old Bandstand, Beacon Hill Park,” December, 2009, by Donald Luxton Associates, Inc.]
New lawn bowling clubhouse constructed
A new Lawn Bowling Clubhouse, the second in Beacon Hill Park history, was officially opened on Wednesday, October 28, 1981.
The first clubhouse, shown on the left, was built in 1909. It was vigorously opposed by Dr. J. S. Helmcken, who presented strong legal arguments against allowing a private club in Beacon Hill Park [See Chapter 8]. The original clubhouse was demolished in 1981 after 72 years of continuous use.
The new and larger clubhouse received little press coverage and almost no opposition, despite the fact that the City provided funding. A small negative quibble by columnist Gorde Hunter about buying copper down-spouts instead of cheaper plastic ones was quickly squashed. Ald. Ken Sinclair told Hunter that copper down-spouts were required under the building code for hidden eaves, the price difference between plastic and copper was only $100 and copper was a better choice to lessen vandalism. Sinclair said no public tax money was wasted on the clubhouse; in fact, “the project came in at about $14,000 under cost.” Hunter retracted every syllable of complaint and concluded:
[It is best] not to question anything that is being done for or being done by the senior citizens in our area. The seniors deserve their clubhouse because they worked for it--they didn’t take it as a God-given right. May they long enjoy it. (Times Colonist, September 10, 1981, p. 3)
In 1981, 90% of the members of the Lawn Bowling Club were seniors. The Fairfield News noted the club was “men only” until “around 1922.”
The new clubhouse was built with “grants from the City [a $45,000 grant was passed by City Council January 29, 1981], the Province, the New Horizons and the members themselves.” The building was designed by Bill Lipsey with “2,700 square feet, plus storage in the crawl space.” Included were locker rooms, washrooms and a kitchen. The Club’s agreement with the City stipulated the Club must maintain the building and the greens. This was done primarily with volunteer labour, while money was raised to pay for “fertilizer, lawn seed and garden equipment.”
The building was estimated to cost $156,000, but the club saved $10,000 by doing some of the work themselves. Members applied exterior stain, cleaned up construction debris, leveled the grounds and assembled the lockers. One member donated a loudspeaker system, others donated a dishwasher, a range and a drinking fountain. (The Fairfield News, October, 1981) [In 2004, the Lawn Bowling Club closes the greens the end of September but uses the clubhouse for indoor games during the winter.]
First Great Blue Heron nest recorded in Park
One pair of Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) nested in the Park in 1982, according to birder Harold Hosford, author of a weekly column titled “Stray Feathers,” which ran in the Times Colonist for almost twenty years. Hosford reported one heron nest was located in "the area near the bird cage at Goodacre Lake."
He noted it was highly unusual to find a single nest because herons are colony nesters. He hoped the single pair might lead to more nests in the Park in the following years. He mentioned the 1982 nest the following year, when a heron pair, perhaps the same one, nested in the Park again. (Times Colonist, March 31, 1983, p. A 5)
[The heron colony in Beacon Hill Park grew from one nest in 1982-83 to become the largest on Vancouver Island. More than 90 nests have been recorded each year from 2001-2004. More information on herons appears in the years 1983, 1984, and each year from 1988.]
Ducks moving out
In June, Parks Administrator Al Smith told the newspaper many people were calling him to ask why every Wigeon (see photo on left) in Beacon Hill Park had disappeared. American Wigeons (Anas americana), were numerous in the Park during fall and winter.The answer, he said, was that wigeons fly north to nest in the summer. Smith, not a bird expert, included this personal interpretation: “Ducks are lazy and don’t bother to fly all the way to South America when they can enjoy the warm climate and get well fed by tourists and residents here.”
Smith sounded pleased ducks were leaving: “The people might miss them but we have mixed feelings what with the damage they do to the grass. [Mallards] will dig into the grass for food and it will end up a bog. Then we’ll have to fix it up for the people in the spring.” (Times Colonist, June 11, 1982, p. 17)
[Northern Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), shown in the right photo, stay in the Park year round. Wigeons migrate north to nest in spring, as they have done for thousands of years. Laziness has nothing to do with it.]
New Mile Zero sign
A new marker replaced the original Mile Zero sign, erected in 1958 at the junction of Douglas Street and Dallas Road. The Canadian Automobile Association donated both signs. In 1958, with no metric system in place, mileage was the obvious choice. In 1982, however, highway markers were in kilometres. It was decided to retain the old “Mile 0" designation instead of calling the location “Kilometre 0.” (Times Colonist, June 11, 1982, A 7)
[The placement of this sign is arbitrary. Mile Zero has nothing to do with Beacon Hill Park or with Douglas Street; the Trans-Canada Highway begins further north at the Town and Country Shopping Centre on Blanshard Street. Some residents favour moving Mile Zero to Ogden Point, where there is more parking and less congestion. The triangular plot of Park land on which Mile Zero sits is currently cut off from the rest of the Park. The eastern branch of Douglas Street could be discontinued and Park land restored.]
Beacon Hill Park 100th anniversary celebration
A major “birthday party” was planned to mark the 100th Anniversary of the City of Victoria’s jurisdiction over Beacon Hill Park. The Park was transferred to the City in 1882 by the Province.
“The City will throw a birthday party for Beacon Hill Park July 31-August 2, despite the fact they have the wrong age and anniversary date,” the Times Colonist stated on July 20, 1982. In fact, journalist Patrick Murphy was confused; the land was set aside much earlier as a Park--on February 23, 1859--but the City was not celebrating that date.
Park Committee Chairperson Ald. Gretchen Brewin announced there would be three days of entertainment during the B. C. Day weekend to celebrate the 100th birthday. 28 musical groups ranging from jazz bands to the Victoria Symphony orchestra would perform. Sports events scheduled included a tug of war tournament, archery contest, horseshoes competition, sailboat races and baseball, cricket, and lawn bowling tournaments. There would be demonstration hang gliding, an ultra-light plane demonstration and model airplanes. Motor vehicles were banned in the park for the weekend.
Brewin organized the event on a $10,000 budget with many volunteers. Despite the fact that no sales were permitted in the Park under the Trust, sales were planned. “Proceeds from three snack bars and the sale of a history booklet on the park will cover other costs,” the newspaper said. (Times Colonist, July 20, 1982, p. 11) [The Parks Department booklet referred to is titled Beacon Hill Park, 1882-1982, A Brief History. This short booklet is not a reliable reference.]
The Beacon Hill Park Centennial Committee asked children and adults to submit written or art form entries in a logo design contest. The new logo would appear on letterheads, posters, buttons, t-shirts and programs. Twenty-five submissions were received and put on display in the window of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The grand prize winner was freelance graphic artist Rita Edwards, whose design, shown on the right, is a weeping willow sheltering a bed of flowers. (Times Colonist, June 11, 1982, p. 17)
At 4 p.m. on the first day of the three-day celebration--Saturday, July 31--5,100 balloons were released from the top of Beacon Hill. (Times Colonist, August 1, 1982, p. 1) A letter to the newspaper described the rising balloons as a “stirring and joyful sight,” but complained the newspaper should have credited the Victoria Sri Chinmoy Centre for providing the balloons, which were intended to honour both the 51st birthday of Sri Chinmoy and the centennial of the Park. (Times Colonist, August 15, 1982, p. A 4) [Colourful balloon releases aren’t as popular now that people realize the balloons end up as litter in lakes, oceans and landscapes.]
Park a disgrace, not a showpiece
Columnist Gorde Hunter, in “One Man’s Opinion, criticized the Park’s condition in July:
Writing about Beacon Hill Park reminds me to complain about the shoddy over-all condition in that Park, especially in this its centennial year. The waterways are clogged with weeds, the flowers show signs of neglect as do the lawns. In short, I have never seen the park in such sloppy condition and this is supposed to be one of this city’s showpieces. Change showpiece to disgrace... (Times Colonist, July 17, 1982, p. 3)
A similar criticism was printed in August. Paul Bennett asked:
What has happened to Beacon Hill Park this summer? A short walk through the cultivated area near the park headquarters a few days ago proved a disappointment compared to earlier years.
The fabled rose garden contains several beds of marigolds, the lawn around the rose garden is unkempt, the perennial bed is tatty, many trees appear not to have been sprayed this year and the overall atmosphere was one of faded glory. What a birthday present for our gorgeous park!
While I realize economic times are tough, it seems unfortunate that the jewel in the City of Garden’s diadem appears to have been the victim of the budgeteer’s axe. (Times Colonist, August 25, 1982, p. 4)
Convention Centre proposed
A letter to the newspaper proposed building a convention center in Beacon Hill Park. Clare Brynjolfson thought the ideal location was “the southern area of the Park in the vicinity of the lookout and flagpole,” which he and his wife thought was currently a “liability” but could be “the best location for a convention centre in the entre city.” The writer was appalled by the Park's uncultivated areas, which he called “jungles.” In his view, a convention centre and ornamental landscaping would vastly improve the Hill:
Picture a low-lying white building along this southern slope, facing the Olympics, and all the ships at sea. Room for a large dining area, one of the very few situated on the waterfront with an Olympic view to enjoy our glorious sunsets. Skirt this area with well-kept green lawns, trees, bulbs, and flowering shrubs, and add to this our magnificent flowering baskets...This area could also accommodate more than ample parking either underground or behind the building. (Times Colonist, August 12, 1982, p. A 4)
In response, David R. Williams reviewed the history of Justice Begbie’s ruling of 1884, which limited uses of the park to conform with the wording of the Trust. Williams was certain Begbie would condemn Brynjolfson’s convention center proposal. “Sadly, there is no plaque or monument in Beacon Hill Park to mark Begbie’s role in preserving it,” Williams concluded, because “Begbie was its savior.” (Times Colonist, August 20, 1982, A 4) [The Conference Centre was constructed at the Empress Hotel site in 1989.]
Bonfires for the Royal Visit
Though Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were not scheduled to arrive in Victoria until March 8, plans for the twelve hour Royal Visit were already in place by the beginning of January. A bonfire ceremony on Beacon Hill would be the last event before the Queen sailed out of the Victoria harbour on the royal yacht Britannia. The Queen would light a small symbolic bonfire--about three metres square--at 9:15 p.m. Ted Semmens, assistant co-ordinator for the royal visit explained:
Britannia will be going out at night and as Beacon Hill was used historically as a place to signal the ships, to warn the ships of the rocky shores, it will be a re-enactment of that. We are lighting her way out of the harbour. (Times Colonist, January 5, 1983, A 1)
There was a great deal planned for the eleven hours before the Beacon Hill Park bonfire. Two destroyer-escort ships would escort the Britannia into the harbour; the Naden band would play on the dock as the ship was tied up at Ship Point; at 9:15 a.m., every squadron at CFB Comox would fly past; a 21 gun salute would be fired. More than 1,000 members of the Canadian Forces, reserves and cadets would be lined up at strategic points all day. The Queen was scheduled to have lunch at the Empress, then visit Christ Church Cathedral, where she would dedicate new bells, one of which was named after her newest grandson, Prince William. The Queen would visit Craigflower School, the oldest school west of the Great Lakes, see the military college at Royal Roads and attend a music performance at the University of Victoria.(Times Colonist, March 7, 1983)
Bonfire plans expanded in February. Victoria Fire Chief Mike Heppell planned a spectacular fire--12 metres wide and 4. 5 metres high--on Finlayson Point. It would be lit by the Victoria Fire Department after the Queen departed the Park and just before the Britannia left the dock so the Queen would see it when her yacht sailed by. Eight firefighters and a truck would be stationed by the fire and huge crowds would line Dallas Road. Heppell suggested other giant signal fires line the shores as the Queen departed:
The idea is to have a number of fires along the coastline so that when the royal yacht leaves the harbour here the Queen can see the fires. It will be a kind of “Come back again and visit us again” fire--a beacon so that she can find her way back here. (Times Colonist, February 16, 1983, B 1)
Royal Roads Military Academy planned to light a fire on the beach below the school. Oak Bay agreed to build a bonfire on Cattle Point and Saanich would do the same on Ten Mile Point. Oak Bay’s Fire Chief Fred Leeke planned to burn straw, which would leave less residue than wood, in his beacon fire. Heppell said the Victoria bonfire would burn bales of straw and railway ties from the old E&N Railroad. If that ran out, “we’ll just haul logs up from the beach. I think it’ll be great and I think that the public will really like this.”
Rain and extremely high winds interfered. The Queen, wearing a fur coat and head scarf, gamely pushed a button to light the symbolic bonfire on Beacon Hill despite adverse conditions:
The wind whipped sparks into the crowd and trees to the west of the condoned off area. People had to move out of the vicinity because of the dense, black smoke. Firefighters assured the blaze did not get out of control. The Queen was escorted by Mayor Pollen, who had earlier lost his hat to the wind. So had one red-coated mountie. (Times Colonist, March 9, 1983, p. A 2)
Less than an hour after lighting the beacon bonfire, the royal yacht Britannia steamed past thousands of people lining Dallas Road to see her off. The newspaper did not mention the giant shoreline bonfires.
One pair of herons again
One pair of Great Blue Herons nested in the Park “near the bird cage” for the second year in a row, Harold Hosford wrote in his column “Stray Feathers.” Hosford correctly predicted a colony might grow:
"The Great Blue Herons are of particular interest because they represent the first of their kind, in living memory, to choose Beacon Hill Park as a place to nest. They are of interest also because by nesting alone they are breaking one of the long-standing codes of Great Blue Heron behaviour; Great Blue Herons rarely nest alone, they usually nest in colonies.
"On this last count, it is possible that the single pair of Great Blue Herons now established in the Park may be the start of something much bigger. It could be, in the years to come, this one nest becomes the focus for others as the young from the first family--with a strong imprint of the Park in the minds--return with their mates, to nest. Then, Beacon Hill Park will be able to take her place beside Stanley Park in Vancouver, in contributing to the future well-being of Great Blue Herons.
"The presence of several nesting pairs in Stanley Park and the decision of one pair to set up shop in Beacon Hill, puts the lie to the idea that Great Blue Herons do not take kindly to human disturbance...
"At the moment, the pair of Great Blue Herons in Beacon Hill are getting re-acquainted. It’s a noisy process that involves a lot of bill rattling, squawking and other unseemly noises. Once their new relationship has been re-established, there will be comparative quiet near the nest. But all that will change in a month or so when four or five hungry young herons learn that the squeaking wheel gets the grease, so to speak." (Times Colonist, March 31, 1983, p. A 5)
In May, 1983, a new 33 l/2 metre flag pole was erected on top of Beacon Hill. The newspaper photo caption stated only: “The old one became rotten and had to be replaced.” (Times Colonist, May 10, 1983, p. B 1)
Flagpoles erected on Beacon Hill in 1938 and 1958 were donated by the Mayo Lumber Company, but it is not clear if the Mayo family donated the 1983 pole. A plaque, apparently removed from the previous pole and attached to the current flagpole, states: “Presented to the City of Victoria by the Mayo Family of Paldi, B. C. in 1958, in memory of Mayo Singh and his wife Bishan Kaun, the Founders of Mayo Enterprises.”
[The first reference in Park records to a flagpole on the site was in 1891. The Beacon Hill Park Heritage Landscape Management Plan, 2004, concluded: “The flagpole...has value as a reminder of the command of Beacon Hill and its strategic value to the British government.” That heritage evaluation process assigned the flagpole a “Very Good” rating. (p. 43 & 70)]
Dead woman found in Park
The decomposed body of a woman was found in Beacon Hill Park in November by Park gardener Al Cunningham. The body was about thirty metres from a trail near the Southgate Street entrance. The Times Colonist reported that police cordoned off the area and posted guards overnight while forensic pathologist Dr. Rex Ferris was called in from Vancouver to examine the scene and the body. The article stated the body had “little tissue left but a full head of long, black hair.” Dr. Ferris stated the body had been there “a long time. I’m talking of months.” (Times Colonist, November 17, 1983, p. B 1)
Though identification of the body had not been made, Victoria resident Dave Robertson believed it was his wife, who disappeared five months before on her daughter’s seventh birthday. Foul play was suspected because 40% of the body was covered with dirt. (Times Colonist, November 18, 1983, p. B 1)
A bizarre event took place in the Park October 13 when a man threw a 74 year old woman into Goodacre Lake. The man, naked to the waist and dripping wet, punched the woman and yelled, “Do you think I’m crazy?” before throwing her into water about l 3/4 metres deep. A bicyclist who witnessed the event helped the woman out and walked her home, then returned to the Park and with Park staff found the man hiding in the bushes.
At his appearance in Court in December, it was established that Kenneth Stephen Trump, age 30, had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication and his intention on October 13 was to commit suicide by drowning himself in the Lake. He was treated at Eric Martin Institute and was discharged November 25. Trump wrote a letter of apology to his victim. Judge Robert Hutchinson gave the man a suspended sentence and three years probation, saying “It’s perfectly clear...the man was sick.” (Times Colonist, December 7, 1983, p. B 1)
Slight increase in heron nests
Two pairs of Great Blue Herons built nests in the Park “near the bird cage,” columnist Harold Hosford wrote in “Stray Feathers.” He saw three nests in the Douglas firs near Goodacre Lake and thought there could be three pairs. Hosford reported a high noise level as mating rituals were performed. There was “head shaking, mutual nibbling, bill-stroking, neck-crossing and what one authority has called ‘howling,’” Hosford concluded: “So, except for that quiet time between the end of March and the end of April [when the eggs are brooded], the Richter scale will be tested to the full by the herons of Beacon Hill Park.” (Times Colonist, February 24, 1984, p. A 5)
[Hosford was describing the noise generated by 4 to 6 herons. In 2004, there were about 200 adults and as many young in that location. The noise--and the smell--were outstanding. The Great Blue Heron colony is now one of the most prominent features of the Park; the City of Victoria featured heron information and a webcam focused on one nest.]
The Parks Committee was opposed to allowing a hot-dog stand in Beacon Hill Park but expressed interest in a tearoom/restaurant. Parks In April, Director Al Smith suggested building a concession stand as a money-making operation; he thought it might provide twenty-five percent of the $200,000 annual Park budget. Mayor Peter Pollen said a concession would be “a very negative step.” Ald. Janet Baird was in favour of a tearoom, though she acknowledged “you don’t take little kids to a tearoom.” Council asked Smith to investigate the possibility of a tearoom on top of Beacon Hill. (Times Colonist, April 6, 1984, p. B 1)
An editorial in the newspaper the following day opposed the tearoom:
In this vacuum of indifference, inappropriate proposals continue to surface--like the one this week from Victoria City Council’s Parks Committee. Aldermen sensibly turned down the Parks Director’s suggestion for a concession stand in the Park, but then matched that bit of foolishness by instructing him to investigate the feasibility of building a tearoom at the Lookout...
The proposal is another example of successive administrations ad hoc approach to park development, which was criticized several years ago by the Beacon Hill Park Association. (What ever happened to that once-active group, by the way?)...The group’s warning is as pertinent today. Beacon Hill Park is “endangered by the lack of a coherent plan,” the brief argued. “It is endangered by ‘improvements’ and a park policy which does not recognize the validity of the motto ‘Leave well enough alone.’” (Times Colonist, April 7, 1984, p. A 4)
The writer noted a tearoom on top of the Hill would require widening the access road and building a larger parking lot, damaging the unique Garry oak meadow. The writer asked: “Would this enhance the park’s natural beauty?” Instead, the editorial suggested people bring a picnic lunch, go to the Beacon Hill Drive-in on the west side of the Park, or to Cook Street businesses on the east side of the Park.
Though the editorial was informed by past experience, promoters of the tearoom plan made no reference to lessons learned in previous Council tearoom proposal discussions. 1984 tearoom advocates downplayed or ignored Park Trust restrictions, the value of existing Garry oak habitat, and negative impacts of building on Beacon Hill.
“Financial Estimates for Proposed Tea Room in Beacon Hill Park” written by Stephen Taylor, owner of the Windsor Park Tea Room, was submitted to the Park Department on September 6, 1984. His business plan proposed a 100 table commercial tea room, open 12 hours a day. Taylor stated it had a reasonable chance to be profitable. (Park Department files, 100 Cook Street) [See 1985, for a detailed teahouse proposal by Ald. Janet Baird.]
Pesticide kills ducks
Twenty dead Mallards and Wigeons were found in the Park in April near a 67 by 6 metre strip of grass that had been recently sprayed with diazinon and methoxychlor. The grass area was next to the Circle Drive duck ponds. The ducks found dead at the pesticide site were taken immediately to the Hartland Road landfill and were “unavailable for laboratory tests.”
Parks Director Al Smith justified the spraying and claimed a string prevented ducks from going on the pesticide area:
We were worried about an infestation of crane flies because of the high number of leather-jackets we found in one section of the grass, so we got permission from the pesticide control branch and sprayed the chemicals. We had a string fence around the sprayed area for three days after the spraying so the birds couldn’t fly into it. (Times Colonist, April 17, 1984, p. B 1)
When questioned, Smith admitted ducks could easily waddle under the string onto the grass.
Pesticide Control Branch investigator Robin Mullett, the other man responsible for the pesticide decision, suggested the ducks died from food poisoning. He said, “Samples of water in the nearby ponds and soil from the sprayed area have been sent to a provincial Environment Ministry laboratory for analysis.” [Mullett did not send grass samples or tissue samples from the dead ducks.] Ten days later, Mullett reported the soil sample taken where the diazinon was sprayed showed a low level of the pesticide.
Paul Whitehead, a toxic chemical biologist with the Canadian government, said testing the soil was an odd choice because ducks don’t eat soil:
The ducks eat the grass and that’s what they should have had analyzed for diazinon concentration. The soil level is only interesting in that it suggests the level of diazinon in the grass. (Times Colonist, April 27, 1984, p. B 1)
Both Smith and Mullett claimed it was common for two or three ducks to be found dead in the Park every day during the mating season. “Those female ducks are relentlessly pursued by males and it can be rough for them,” Smith said. Asked by a reporter whether female ducks actually die from aggressive male pursuers, Smith said: “What would you do if you had someone on your back in the water?” (Times Colonist, April 17, 1984, p. B 1)
Male Mallards do chase females around and forced mating is common; it lasts for a few seconds, with the male on top of the female in the water. It is common for Mallards to feed with heads underwater, however, so drowning during mating is extremely unlikely for these waterfowl. The newspaper did not ask an ornithologist, wildlife biologist or experienced birder if female Mallards are killed on a daily basis by males. In 2004, naturalist Andrea Lajoie commented:
In my 35 years of observation of bird behavior, I have never heard of nor seen an instance of ‘Mallard murder’...if Mallards killed each other all the time there should be plenty of physical evidence to support that claim, but I am aware of no such evidence. (Email, August 25, 2004)
The cause of the duck deaths was “unknown,” according to the conclusions of Smith and Mullet. Mullett said again: “Where there is such a large population of birds in so small an area, it’s understandable that you have some female ducks dying from rough attacks by males.” (Times Colonist, April 27, 1984, p. B 1)
Cooper’s hawk hits two people
A mother Cooper’s hawk defended her Beacon Hill Park nest more vigorously than usual in June when she knocked a Victoria woman to the ground. Joyce Neale described what happened:
I was knocked flat on my face and my head was cut. I didn’t know what hit me. I was just walking under its nest. They don’t make a sound because they dive. I wondered what the hell hit me. I’m not blaming the bird. But I’m wondering if a warning sign should be put up. I’m fairly agile but I was concerned that somebody elderly might be injured. I don’t want anyone to shoot the thing. It’s perfectly natural to defend its nest. While I was there I saw it flying at a dozen other people. (Times Colonist, June 7, 1984, p. B 1)
Neale said the hawk nest was in a tree near the parking lot adjacent to the central children’s playground. The hawk hit her on the back of the head. A second report came from resident Max Fassett who said a hawk hit him in the back of the head a week before.
Birder and columnist Harold Hosford explained:
They’re protecting their nest. The young are just starting to get out of the nest. It’ll only happen for a short time. They will dive down and sometimes hit you on the back of the head. They do it with a clenched claw and sometimes drag the back claw across the back of the head. (Times Colonist, June 9, 1984, p. A 2)
[This 1984 hawk nest record is the first available record of a Cooper’s hawk nest in the Park. In 2004, this amazing bird of prey has become more abundant in the Victoria region than any other urban area in North America. Wildlife biologist Andrew Stewart began a banding program in 1995 as part of an on-going study of the ecology of urban-nesting Cooper’s hawks in Greater Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula. Stewart has banded hawks in Beacon Hill Park every year since. For more on Cooper’s hawks, see 1985, 1987, 1995, 1998 and 2004.]
Horse patrol in Park
The Victoria Police Department began an experimental mounted patrol in Beacon Hill Park in 1984. A photo in the Times Colonist showed Constable Brenda Griffin riding Nick, a 13 year-old-gelding. After her first shift, Griffin said everywhere she went people were smiling and pleased to see a horse patrol, including beer drinkers reprimanded on the beach. Nick was owned by Victoria Police Sergeant Brian Hayes.
Nick and Griffin were scheduled to patrol the Park eleven more times before the end of July. “The mounted patrol covered a lot of ground that couldn’t be patrolled from a police car--behind bleachers, the beach and behind bushes,” the newspaper reported. Supt. Doug Richardson said the police would like to establish a stable in the Park. (Times Colonist, June 9, 1984, A 1 & B 15) [See 1990 for more on the police horse barn.]
Dogs slaughter deer
Two large dogs leaped a three-metre fence and killed a four-year-old doe in August. Al Smith said it was the first time a dog had leaped the barrier in 33 years: “There’s not much we can do to stop it. It would be a big job to raise the fence higher and, even if we did, the dog could return before the work was finished.”
Veterinarian Dr. Alan Hoey, who examined the deer, said the jump was easy for a large dog:
All it takes is a very large animal and a running start. It could almost jump that high and scramble over the rest. It was a classic mauling. There were parallel bites and tooth tears either side of its neck and puncture wounds on the chest. It must have been a pretty good size dog, perhaps two. There were wounds on the deer’s leg suggesting it had been pulled down or dragged. (Times Colonist, August 24, 1984, p. A 1)
Only two deer remained in Beacon Hill Park, a buck and a doe. They were aging 12 and 13 year old siblings.
By the next day, Smith decided the fence would be raised a half-metre in high-risk areas where a dog could take a long run and flying leap. “We hope it will act as a dog deterrent, but of course nothing is 100% sure,” he said. Dense brush grew near half the fence. (Times Colonist, August 25, 1984, p. B 13)
A letter to the editor from Jason Austin in September pointed out:
...those responsible for the captive deer should have deplored the event and censured the owners of the dangerous pests which might next attack a child or older citizen...I know that had the dogs killed livestock, poultry or sheep, there would have been instant demand for destruction of the pets and compensation for the farmer. (Times Colonist, September 2, 1984, p. A 4)
Another letter expressed dismay at how many dog owners let their dogs run free in the Park. (Times Colonist, September 22, 1984, A 4) [During his administration, W. H. Warren used similar incidents to educate the public on the damage done to Park birds, animals and plants by dogs. He advocated fines for unleashed dogs and patrols to ticket owners.]
Changes made in the lakes
Concrete was poured over the natural soil lake bottoms of the Circle Drive lakes--Deer, Willow, Rose and Queens--in 1984. (It is likely the concrete in Arbour Lake was also poured at this time.) A pump and a water line was installed at Queen’s Lake to connect it to the Rose Lake recirculating system. About the same time, two concrete duck-feeding platforms were installed at the edge of Goodacre Lake and one at Rose Lake, according to Assistant Supervisor Al Cunningham.
Spectral Solarium project
A letter thanking thousands of Victorians for visiting the “Spectral Solarium” exhibit at the Checkers House (Lookout Shelter) on Beacon Hill was published in October:
[The project was] a six month exhibit of an experimental visual medium, refracted sunlight choreographed to music, called Spectral Visions. Approximately 10,000 visitors from Victoria and around the world visited the exhibit during an exceptionally sunny summer.
The unusual project was presented by “the Solar Visions Foundation, a non-profit educational society for the creative exploration and experience of sunlight,” with funding from the Greater Victoria Community Arts Council. (Times Colonist, October 16, 1984, A 4)
Flagpole crashed to earth
Vandals loosened a guy wire on the 33 metre flag pole at the top of Beacon Hill causing it to crash to the ground. The base of the pole was cracked and a guy wire whipped into the roof of the Lookout, damaging it. Repairs were estimated at $750 . The wooden, glass-fibered pole was erected in May, 1983. (Times Colonist, October 31, 1984, B 1)
Petting farm privatized
City Council decided to turn the operation of the Beacon Hill Park Children’s Petting Farm over to private businessman Dennis Koenders on January 17, 1985. The Council decision was made in order to cut the $20,000 farmyard cost from the budget. The free-admission farmyard had been operated entirely by Park staff since it was established in 1972.
Koenders expected corporate donations to help fund an estimated $75,000 to $100,000 a year he wanted to operate the farmyard. Koenders planned to rebuild the barns and enclosures, add an aviary, pheasants, chickens, a petting area with lambs, a miniature donkey and possibly a miniature horse.“Renovations at the farm will not desecrate the farmyard burial plot of beloved Queenie, the last horse in city service,” the newspaper reported.
At the time of the private business take-over, the City maintained two horses, three deer and an estimated 65 to 80 peacocks at the farm. Other animals exhibited at the petting farm during summer seasons--pigs, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs--had been borrowed and returned. (Times Colonist, January 18, 1985, B 11)
Before Koenders took over the farmyard, the City returned horse Sheba to her original family and in May, advertised the pony named Ralph for sale. Ralph had been donated to the Petting Farm as a companion for Sheba. Columnist Jim Gibson said the $350 advertisement was more than the horse was worth and noted those who knew Ralph well called him “Rotten Ralph.” (Times Colonist, May 7, 1985, B 6) There was only one offer for Ralph; Marcia Jeanes got him for $100. (Times Colonist, May 16, 1985, p. A 3)
After four months of fundraising, Dennis Koenders had collected only $5,000 from three corporate sponsors--Pay-Less Gas, Park Pacific Apartments and Glen Oak Ford--out of the $25,000 needed. Parks Director Al Smith said if Koenders couldn’t run the farmyard, the Parks Department would not take over. “There’s no money in our budget for it this year." Koenders, who maintained a farm in Coombs and a petting zoo in a mall between Parksville and Qualicum Beach, said he needed sponsors because Beacon Hill Park rules would not allow him to charge admission. (Times Colonist, May 15, 1985, B 1)
Two days before the farmyard was due to open, the newspaper featured a large photo of the three Koender children with cute goats and a story titled “Petting farm financed by faith.” The newspaper stated: "Barred from charging admission, the Koenders will put a donation box at the old wishing well." (Times Colonist, June 20, 1985, p. B1)
The opinion of the City’s lawyer, Martin Verbrugge, was that since Koenders was using Park property for a non-commercial venture, it was legal:
They will be operating it as a farm for children and for the general benefit of the public. It doesn’t require a licence because it’s not a commercial enterprise. For the same reason, the operation will not conflict with the terms of the Trust covering the Park. (Times Colonist, June 20, 1985, p. B 1)
Betty Gibbens, staunch defender of the Park Trust and foe of the privately run farmyard, wrote the first of many letters to the Times Colonist opposing the farmyard agreement between the City and the Koenders. She said the City,
“...in exchange for a token dollar special licence,” signed an agreement allowing a businessman to operate the farmyard “on approximately three-quarters of an acre” of Park land.
Stipulations of the agreement include no advertising, no selling of food and no admission charges. Instead, two signs on the park’s wishing well solicit donations.
Given the attraction of Beacon Hill Park, the City could be said to be subsidizing this private farm...All donations are his to keep or use as he sees fit, subject to certain maintenance requirements. He is not required to provide accounting to anyone, nor pay his helpers.
This agreement sets an important precedent. Council risks being seen as having given a special concession to a businessman. (Times Colonist, July 4, 1985, A 4)
In August, Koenders reported, “The donations have fallen as the summer has progressed and we have been getting by but that’s about it.” He estimated donations of $200 on a Saturday at the beginning of summer had dropped to $140 in August. The last Sunday was exceptional, however; Among the small change were two $100 bills. Koenders estimated donations averaged about 10 cents per visitor.
It seems about half the people do not donate. And we seem to be getting fewer people out now. The numbers seem to have fallen from about 2,000 on a Saturday or Sunday earlier in the summer to about 1,500 recently. (Times Colonist, August 12, 1985, A 3)
Koenders thanked Pay-Less Gas for a $2,500 donation. Tally-Ho Horsedrawn Sightseeing Co. provided daily hay and a dairy firm donated two gallons of milk a day. In October, Dennis Koenders told City Council the farmyard needed a $12,000 grant from the City to operate in 1986. The request was referred to the 1986 budget sessions. (Times Colonist, October 11, 1985) [2004 was the twentieth year of the Koenders operation in the Park. In this history, farmyard issues and animals are included every year from 1985 to 2004.]
Cooper’s hawks nest
In 1985, columnist Harold Hosford reported a pair of Cooper’s hawks nesting in a Douglas fir east of the totem pole in Beacon Hill Park. He noticed them flying in March, making the distinctive “kek-kek-kek” call, then saw the male presenting stick after stick to the female for placement at the selected nest site. He commented the nest was “a messy bundle of twigs.” (Harold Hosford, “Stray Feathers,” Times Colonist, Islander, February 22, 1985, M 2) [Cooper’s hawk nests are always a “messy bundle of twigs” and sometimes collapse. See 2004 for a description of a hawk nest collapse and the rescue of two chicks. See 1987 for the next hawk reference.]
Park has “rough edges,” needs master plan
James K. Youds, who identified himself as a “park planner,” advocated a master plan for Beacon Hill Park. In a letter to the Times Colonist, he offered his “experience and time” as a volunteer and pointed out the Fairfield Community Association was also interested in developing a plan. Youds emphasized the Park as a tourist attraction and spoke of “capital investment priorities.” (Times Colonist, May 3, 1985, p. A 4)
In response, Betty Gibbens’ letter noted Youds pro-development wording and pointed out the value of the more natural areas of the Park and the value of native plants, appreciated by many. Gibbens noted how little Park land remained after deducting land devoted to “public works yard, administrative offices, buildings for the cricket and bowling clubs, roads, parking spaces and parking lots." She celebrated the long history of rejected commercial proposals in the Park and lamented City Council’s decision “to grant an individual the right to operate the animal pen.” She asked: “Is this the thin edge of the wedge, a sign of the park’s future direction?” (Times Colonist, May 13, 1985, A 4) [Gibbens reiterated these positions in opinion columns and letters to the editor from 1985 to 2004.]
Body found in Park
A dead body was found behind the Cameron Bandshell on May 2. Victoria police identified him as Randolph Bernard Patterson, age 40, of “no fixed address.” They determined he died accidentally. (Times Colonist, May 3, 1985, p. A 2)
Ald. Janet Baird proposed a 140-150 seat “tea room” on top of Beacon Hill in June. She estimated building costs to be $350,000, with another $100,000 for parking and underground water, sewer and electricity. She wanted the Lookout Shelter demolished to make way for the restaurant. Baird said the City should pay for construction and then lease the building to a private operator. She estimated City profits could be $60,000 a year. Baird’s plan required City Council to apply to the Province for an amendment of the Trust in order to permit food sales. Baird asked Council to re-zone the land from park to restaurant use and to hold a public hearing on the zoning. Mayor Pollen said a public hearing should be held first on the idea of the restaurant.
Alderman Geoff Young thought Baird’s planned restaurant was too large. He preferred a modest tearoom selling teas and scones, not full meals. Baird responded that the enterprise would need at least 80 seats to be viable. (Times Colonist, June 7, 1985, p. A 3)
In a letter to the editor, Maggi Lynn said it was a mistake to think Beacon Hill Park should duplicate the amenities found in Stanley Park:
...to compare Beacon Hill Park with Vancouver’s Stanley Park and its many acres is the epitome of ignorance. [Beacon Hill has 154 acres compared to Stanley Park’s 960 acres.] ...All Victoria Council needs to do is spend a few hundred bucks on lookout building repairs...A restaurant will only be the beginning of commercialism...it’s amazing that the park hasn’t been changed into a deluxe housing project.
Smarten up, Victorians. If you don’t get off your butts to express your opinion of this latest cockamamie council plan, which you will be subsidizing, then don’t complain after it happens. (Times Colonist, June 13, 1985, p. A 4)
After interviewing a total of fifteen people, the Times Colonist concluded that Victoria was evenly split over the proposal to build a $450,000 tearoom on Beacon Hill. Eight people were for Janet Baird’s proposal and seven against. (Times Colonist, June 15, 1985, D 1)
Jim Hume used his column “Talk Politics” to advocate for a restaurant. He wanted “to do something about that ghastly, dirty, glassed-in mess on top of the lookout....So, I’m for a privately operated tearoom.” In his opinion, every building in the Park “from restrooms to cricket pavilion” enhanced the Park. “And a tearoom on top of the hill--with minimal parking to encourage people to walk--would do the same.” (Times Colonist, June 18, 1985, A 5)
Jocelyn Floyer’s letter to the paper stated: “With regard to the absurd proposal to install a large restaurant in Beacon Hill Park, there is already far too much use pressure on this beautiful space...Parks are for picnics, not sophisticated dining.” (Times Colonist, June 21, 1985, p. A 4)
The President of the Victoria Waterfront Enhancement Society, Graham Taylor, opposed the restaurant:
We see such a proposal as being part of the growing trend to commercialize Victoria’s invaluable public open space.
The principal objection to the teahouse is that it would be a major commercial intrusion and erosion of Beacon Hill Park...Stanley Park does have a teahouse, but is five times [sic] larger...The line has to be drawn on privatization of public space. (Times Colonist, June 23, 1985, A 4)
Former City Planner Rod Clack eloquently opposed the restaurant:
I think it is absolute madness to even consider commercializing a site of historic significance and one of great natural beauty in one of the most beautiful civic parks I have seen in my worldwide travels.
The issue, in my opinion, is not whether a restaurant on Beacon Hill would be well patronized and profitable enough to add cash to the city coffers. That should be irrelevant. The point in question is whether we value one of the finest sites in the public domain on Vancouver Island enough to preserve it in perpetuity, or are we willing to sell our heritage short and irretrievably desecrate the crowning glory of Beacon Hill in a park which is almost beyond compare.
Perhaps more succinctly put, are we going to be foolish enough to trade the site atop Beacon Hill as a real estate commodity or will wisdom and thoughtfulness prevail as we appreciate the value of this location as a resource without price. I cannot speak too strongly against the proposal. (Times Colonist, June 24, 1985, p. A 3)
Gorde Hunter quoted Rod Clack’s views in his column “One Man’s Opinion,” and concluded: “Read and digest — I hope there are enough on Council with the same common sense.”
In a letter to the editor, W. C. Frobel wrote:
Beacon Hill Drive-In is within sight of the hill...We have restaurants enough now..We have something here which I’m sure many other cities would like to have. But they messed things up and now it’s too late for them.” (Times Colonist, June 27, 1985, p. A 4)
Another letter to the editor made the same point: “Visitors wishing refreshments have only to cross Douglas Street to the drive-in restaurant or go to Cook Street on the east side of the Park.” (Times Colonist, June 28, 1985, A 4) P. Neal’s letter stated a small kiosk would make sense in the Park, but an even more important need was a washroom on the Hill because the only washroom open all year was near the Cameron Bandshell, in the centre of the Park. (Times Colonist, June 29, 1985, p. A 4)
In Council’s final discussion on the tearoom/restaurant, Ald. Janet Baird spoke in favour, but not one other Council member supported her. Columnist Jim Hume called Council’s decision against the restaurant “tame compliance.” Hume quoted with approval past Parks Administrator W. H. Warren’s support for an aquarium and a tearoom in 1954. He neglected to mention that Warren changed his mind; by 1970, Warren spoke against all new developments in the Park. (Times Colonist, July 5, 1985, A 5)
Sombre monument erected near Finlayson Point
A gray-black granite monolith was erected near Finlayson Point on Dallas Road marking the twinning of Morioka, Japan and Victoria on May 23, 1985. It is surrounded by a metal fence. Japanese writing is inscribed on the west side of the large coffin-like rectangle. On the east side is this message: “Placed here May 23, 1985. Commemorating the twinning of Morioka, Japan and Victoria and to the memory of Dr. Inazo Nitobe. Mayor Daizo Ota, Mayor Peter Pollen.” Ten years later, a plaque was attached beside the inscription. It states: “10th Anniversary of Twinning, Morioka, Japan, Victoria, Canada. May 23, 1995. Mayor Ohto, Mayor Cross.” Victoria artist John Bryant called the monument “Austere and bleak looking...” Artist and art critic Robert Amos wrote, “as a sculpture, it is a failure.” (Times Colonist, July 3, 2003, p. D 9)
A temporary monkey
There was a flurry of interest when a 15 year old female pig-tailed macaque monkey named Suzy was temporarily housed in the Park aviary. She was donated to the Park but was returned to owners Doug and Mary Parker after complaints and controversy. Suzy had played the part of Emily Carr’s monkey, Woo, in a film ten years previously. Margaret Martin, the actress who played Emily in the two-part CBC special remembered Suzy well but not fondly. Suzy had pulled her hair, given her bruises and bit her. “She was cute to look at but...” (Times Colonist, August 3, 1985, D 1 & September 22, 1985, p. A 4)
What to do with the Beacon Hill Lookout Shelter?
Parks Director Al Smith asked City Council for approval to demolish the Beacon Hill Lookout Shelter (formerly known as Checkers Pavilion), retaining only the concrete foundation and floor. The cost of tearing down the building was estimated to be $1,000; the cost to repair it was a minimum of $7,000.
“We have to do something. I don’t think we can afford to keep it but I’m willing to look at it for heritage value,” Ald. Geoff Young said. Ald. Janet Baird replied: “To go the heritage route is just prolonging the agony. We’re still going to have an ongoing problem of vandalism if we don’t find some use for it in evening hours.” Council tabled the suggestion in order to get advice from the Heritage Advisory Committee. (Times Colonist, January 11, 1986, p. D 6)
Discussion continued in February, when the Heritage Advisory Committee recommended the Lookout building be saved because it was “historically significant” and added a “humanizing element to the Hill.” Ald. Frank Carson wanted to know what was so historic about a collapsing glasshouse and said fixing it up would be “putting money down a rathole.” Carson thought any funds for renovating the building should come from the Heritage Fund budget.
Parks Director Al Smith warned decay might have weakened the structure and said there were also problems with the double roof. Smith thought the only “humanizing” effect was “to provide a place for vandals to have fun.”
Ald. Geoff Young said destroying the building because of vandalism would be a step backwards: “It would be allowing ourselves to be over-influenced by a bunch of kids who like to climb on a roof and rip off shingles.” He suggested closing the access road and smearing “sticky insect catcher” around the roof to deter vandals. Young wanted to save the building and planned to assemble a detailed budget estimate and options for its use. (Times Colonist, February 7, 1986, B 7)
Columnist Jim Hume took Council to task for giving in to vandals and being “afraid of a minority of rock throwing punks.” He advocated “declaring total war” on vandals. His solutions were illuminating the hilltop and installing surveillance cameras. (Times Colonist, February 7, 1986, p. A 5)
A letter to the editor from Janet Macdonald advocated removing the old building and using the concrete floor for a new open lookout. She wrote:
No amount of patching up the building would do justice to the historical site. However, considerable immediate improvement to the whole area would result if a clean-up truck and crew were dispatched to remove the remains of the existing broken, rotten, dirty structure, along with the old scrub pines that obscure the vistas of sea, mountains and ships. (Times Colonist, February 16, 1986, A 4)
City Council decided to install a steel frame inside the Lookout building to make it structurally sound and to re-shingle some of the roof, using $4,000 from the current year’s parks budget. Ald. Geoff Young said the roof would need to be completely re-shingled in 1987 at a cost of $7,000 to $9,000. (Times Colonist, February 19, 1986, p. B 11) [In 2004, the decrepit Lookout is boarded up and still the scene of night parties. In August, more shingles were ripped off the roof. See 1995, 1996 and 2004 for more the Lookout.]
1986 Children’s Farmyard
Children’s Farm operator Dennis Koender applied to City Council for permission to expand the farmyard’s boundary by thirty metres and to construct a twelve by eighteen metre barn. He planned to sell Beacon Hill Park Children’s Farm t-shirts to raise money for the expansion. (Times Colonist, April 3, 1986, p. A 10)
Council turned down the large barn. Ald. Geoff Young said Koenders could use the red barn already on the site and it might be possible to expand existing buildings without expanding the area of the farm. Ald. Janet Baird said Koenders should set up a non-profit society to run the farm. “It’s never going to get off the ground doing it this way.” Young said though many people love the farmyard, commercial operations are forbidden in Beacon Hill Park, so t-shirts sales must take place outside the Park. (Times Colonist, April 4, 1986, A 13)
In the first two days of the season, almost 2,000 people visited the Children’s Petting Farm. The newspaper printed the usual cute children and animals photo and noted: “Nine of the kids that were at the farm last year are now fully grown goats and expecting kids of their own...week-old brown and yellow muscovy ducklings drew a gallery of small fry.” (Times Colonist, May 3, 1986, B 11)
In August, Dennis Koenders told the Victoria Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission that he wanted to charge admission to the farmyard using a fee structure similar to Stanley Park’s Petting Farm. The Vancouver farmyard charged adults $1.40, children and seniors 75 cents, and families $2.80. Koenders claimed charging for entry “controls the number of people visiting the farm at any one time.” He also wanted an all-weather petting area so he could stay open ten months a year.
Koenders was operating the farm as a business with his wife Lynda as an employee. He said they had been working seven days a week, 12 hours a day for $3.85 an hour. Up to August 15, about 120,000 people visited the farm, making donations of $21,000.
Parks Director Al Smith was a strong supporter of Koenders and his plans. He said the farmyard provided a service to the public. “It is terrific. It’s what parks are all about. It’s a people place.” Betty Gibbens, however, remained opposed to a private farmyard in the Park:
The privatization of the animal enclosure--the so-called Children’s Farm--has established a different direction for the Park, opening a route that will change the Park’s character. The Park was becoming a mere extension to downtown’s commercial activities rather than the more desirable function of preserving a unique oasis. (Times Colonist, August 28, 1986, p. A 8)
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission recommended in September that the Children’s Farm be operated as a non-profit society instead of a private enterprise, then voted five to three that a non-profit society be allowed to charge admission. Chairman Ken Youds said, “An admission fee is acceptable in principle but not for a private operation.” The fee suggested was 50 cents per child and $1 for adults. Ron Kirstein opposed the admission fee: “Leave it open to everyone, not just the people who have the admission. Often the people who go to parks go because they are free.” Ald. Geoff Young also opposed charging admission fees.
Though stating an admission fee was “acceptable in principle” the Commission report stated:
Quite apart from the excellent operation of the farm, the presence of a private company within the park is disturbing to this sub-committee. This appear to be a breach of the spirit and intent of the trust agreement under which the city accepted responsibility for Beacon Hill Park from the provincial government some 100 years ago.
Koenders said, “At the present time, I don’t want to put my business into a non-profit society.” He said he was looking into another location for the farmyard, such as one of the major shopping centres. (Times Colonist, September 25, 1986, B 15)
Proposal to create a Peace Park
Bob Thompson proposed that a large portion of Beacon Hill Park--from the flagpole south to Dallas Road--be designated Victoria’s “Park for World Peace.” Thompson envisioned the “Peace Park” would be an ideal location for Easter services and peace rallies. Plans presented to City Council included bulldozing the Lookout Shelter and replacing it with a fifteen-foot-high concrete statue dedicated to peace. While the design of the statue was unspecified, the plaque would state: “Dedicated to the continuing friendship of the people of all nations.”
Columnist Gorde Hunter applauded the proposal, saying it was “hardly controversial unless you happen to be against peace.” Hunter thought donations would help pay for the $35,000 statue and “some sculptor” might offer a design “gratis.” He further speculated a concrete company would donate material and “concrete workers would donate their labour.” Hunter concluded: “So far, I haven’t come across anything wrong with the idea.” (Times Colonist, April 9, 1986, p. A 3)
Steve Fonyo ends cross-Canada run at Mile Zero
Steve Fonyo ended a 7,924 kilometre run across Canada when he arrived at Mile Zero in Beacon Hill Park on May 29, 1985. The eighteen year old, who lost his leg to cancer at age twelve, began the cross-country run 425 days before when he dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean at St. Johns, Newfoundland.
Fourteen months later, he ran past approximately 40,000 people lining his route through Victoria. After he dipped his leg in the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the foot of Paddon Avenue, a ceremony was held at Mile Zero, where Premier Bill Bennett unveiled a plaque next to the famous mileage sign. From there, dignitaries and the crowd proceeded to the Park for speeches at the Cameron Bandshell where Fonyo and his parents sat on stage. Between 6,000 to 8,000 people attended the Park ceremonies, according to Staff Sgt. John Lane.
Fonyo’s “Journey for Lives” run raised more than nine million dollars for the Canadian Cancer Society. Fonyo’s goal was to complete the cross-Canada fund-raising run begun by one-legged runner Terry Fox, who was forced to quit in 1980 when his cancer recurred. (Times Colonist, May 30, 1985, A 1 & A 2)
Guidelines for monuments in the Park
An angry Canadian-Hungarian Society of Victoria protested the “insensitivity, negativism, foot-dragging and down right hostility from most members of Council” concerning their desire to erect a memorial in Beacon Hill Park to those who died in the 1956 Hungarian revolution. The Society wanted a memorial to honour “the thousands of patriots who died in the fight against dictatorship.”
In response, Council discussed the desirability of establishing a policy for memorials in City parks requiring the memorials to relate to an event of consequence to Canada, British Columbia or the local region. Council suggested the Canadian-Hungarian Society change the wording to commemorate the contributions Hungarians who fled in 1956 made to Canada. The Society refused and said, “It is an insult to our dead heroes to be subjected to such a runaround. This is a slap in the face from Council.” (Times Colonist, June 19, 1986, A 3)
[The City continues to face applications for memorials with no clear guidelines to guide decisions. A recent suggestion was the requirement that any monument in Beacon Hill Park have some relationship to Park history or features. Guidelines were still not agreed upon in 2004.]
Southeast woods or another big lake?
Constance Hawley wrote the newspaper to “promote more public discussion on plans” for Beacon Hill Park after the Fairfield Observer published several articles advocating the Blair Plan of 1889 be completed. [Part of Blair’s design was a lake next to Cook Street even larger than Goodacre Lake. In 2004, some Fairfield residents continue to favour building the lake.]
Hawley questioned whether the hundred-year-old plan was appropriate in the “vastly different world” of 1989. She pointed out a few thousand British settlers living in a remote outpost in the 1800's desired “beautifully landscaped gardens” in the Park. But in 1989, “the city is one large landscaped garden.” Hawley thought what was valuable in 1989 was “the only remaining natural forest area anywhere near downtown.” That area is “the southeast corner of the Park, the one area of the Park which was not logged.”
She indicated the real problem the neighbours were trying to solve was the wooded area being a rendezvous for homosexuals. (See 1989 for more on this issue.) She asked:
Is there something that can be done about this, other than destroying this little area of natural environment? It is a lovely wood, with native shrubs, trees, flowers and birds. I hope that all options will be considered before such drastic action is taken. (Times Colonist, June 13, 1986, A 4)
Speakers Corner revived
In July, Victoria lawyer Doug Christie, speaking at a Canadian Free Speech League rally in Beacon Hill Park, challenged the City of Victoria to establish a Speakers Corner in the Park. Mayor Gretchen Brewin pointed out the Park already had a Speakers Corner. “It was designated many years ago and has fallen into disuse, so people think it doesn’t exist,” she said. “We’re looking up the rules of the road, and then soapboxes can go in at any time.”
Out of use for about ten years, the Times Colonist had lost track of its location: “Speakers Corner is in a natural amphitheatre down from the Lookout building and almost opposite the totem pole.” (Times Colonist, July 30, 1986, p. B 7) That site was used for only three months, from March to June, 1961, when the Corner was moved to Dallas Road after complaints that crowds were trampling daffodils. For the rest of its twenty-six years (1960-1986), Speakers Corner was located next to the animal enclosure on Circle Drive.
Larry Tickner, a member of the Socialist Party of Canada and veteran of the 1960's Speakers Corner, looked forward to its revival though he knew his organization was unlikely to dominate the reactivated Speakers Corner. In 1986, there were only twelve Socialists in the Victoria Party, with little chance for more recruits. Tickner said converting more residents was like “trying to launch the socialist ship when the tide is out.”
Tickner remembered the 1960's crowds, usually numbering from six to thirty people, were not always polite. “It was a cheap but tough arena. Once you’ve been through that, you can take just about anything. I was physically harassed by the Christian fundamentalists. The Lamb of God had some ugly traits.”
Victoria lawyer Doug Christie proposed the Speakers Corner after two Victoria speeches by Ernst Zundel, one of the heroes of the Canadian Free Speech League, were canceled. Zundel, well known for his attempts to discredit mainstream historical accounts of the World War II holocaust, was convicted of publishing false statements. Tickner disagreed with Zundel’s views but thought he should have been allowed to speak:
If you truly believe in democracy and freedom of speech, it has to apply to everyone, even people who don’t believe in democracy and freedom of speech. I worry about guardians of thought. Is society so fragile that a few words from this mistaken individual would corrupt them? (Times Colonist, August 1, 1986, p. B 10)
Christie, representing the Canadian Free Speech League, requested the City provide a speakers podium in Beacon Hill Park, with no success. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission endorsed rules for the Corner first instituted by Cliff Bate in 1972, which specified that no amplification equipment be used and that speakers provide their own soapboxes. (Times Colonist, August 28, 1986, p. B 1)
In mid August, 1986, a Speakers Corner sign (shown in the photos) was erected east of the Beacon Hill Park animal enclosure. It said: “Speaker's Corner (1960) Bring Your Own Soapbox.”
The sign was attacked by Canadian Free Speech League President Dick Lewers, the first speaker on opening day, Saturday, August 31. He said the League asked City Council for a proper podium and a few seats:
And all we got was a silly sign on top of a stick. I find this appalling and an insult to our integrity and to the people of Victoria and British Columbia that they would put a little steel post up and a small sign on top, smaller than the signs directing people to the public washrooms. To me it is a display of the sincerity they have regarding freedom of speech. (Times Colonist, August 31, 1986, p. A 3)
Lewers pointed out the sign’s choice of words-- “Bring Your Own Soapbox”--showed how outdated City officials were. In the past, soap was delivered in wooden boxes strong enough to support the weight of a person. “They make soapboxes out of cardboard now. Wood went out years ago. You can’t stand on a cardboard box.” He said the next step for his organization was to petition the City to allow them to construct a “dignified podium where someone can stand and speak their opinion without censorship.” The Canadian Free Speech League planned to use Speakers Corner the second Saturday of every month, weather permitting. An audience of about twenty turned up for the first event. (Times Colonist, August 31, 1986, A 3)
In September, members from fourteen area Toastmaster Clubs, a mainstream group, dedicated Speakers Corner to effective communication and presented a communications award to Mayor Gretchen Brewin. Toastmaster spokesman Ray Mulvihill said speeches at the Corner should not be more than ten minutes long because “Most people take too long to say too little.” (Times Colonist, September 7, 1986, D 12)
Aboriginal burial cairns destroyed, then reconstructed
Aboriginal burial cairns, located on the southern slope of Beacon Hill for more than three hundred years, were moved and piled in a heap in 1986 by a Park maintenance crew. The historically significant boulders were cleared to facilitate mowing.
Parks Committee Chairman Geoff Young tried to explain:
"The stones were accidently disturbed in the course of some cleaning up. It was an unfortunate misunderstanding. The Parks and Recreation Committee has been aware of the stones, and had been planning on developing some kind of marker for them so people would be aware of the historical significance. They just look like ordinary rocks on the surface. It’s not a spectacular site. You have to know them. "(Times Colonist, August 25, 1986, A 3)
Royal B.C. Museum archaeologist Grant Keddie, who rushed to the site, said, “Archeological sites are going rapidly in Victoria. We need to start protecting them. At one time there were possibly thousands of prehistoric Indian burial cairns around Victoria, often above Indian defensive sites.”
Keddie explained the Beacon Hill cairns were constructed by aboriginals hundreds of years before, using erratic boulders left behind by glaciation. Some rocks weighed up to a ton and all had to be moved and levered into position. Cairns could be up to six metres long and l.5 metres high, Keddie said. “We don’t know the religious significance. It was a tradition practiced before the arrival of Fort Victoria.” Human remains indicated those buried in the cairns were ancestors of local Salish Indians. (Times Colonist, August 26, 1986, p. B1)
The 1986 boulder removal completed the destruction of the burial cairn sites by the white culture which had been going on for 115 years. “At least” twenty three burial cairns were reported on the summit and sides of Beacon Hill in 1871 by amateur archaeologist James Deans. The flagpole location was previously the location of the largest cairn. When Deans returned to Beacon Hill in 1897, many of the cairn surface boulders had been removed and the area leveled. By the 1970's, only one intact cairn and the circular bases of several others embedded in the hill could still be seen.
Keddie proposed reconstructing the Beacon Hill cairns and the Parks Commission quickly agreed. Ald. Geoff Young downplayed the importance of the exact boulder location and proposed a marker be erected at the site explaining cairn history and reconstruction. (Times Colonist, August 28, 1986, p. B 1) The Commission suggested investigating other archeological sites in Beacon Hill Park as well. The provincial Heritage Conservation Branch estimated $7,000 would be needed for that research. (Times Colonist, September 25, 1986, p. B 15)
In December, the Times Colonist reported the reconstruction of the cairns was completed: “Three [sic] mounds of stones on the southern slope of Beacon Hill Park have been rebuilt to recreate Indian burial cairns which were there 300 years ago. City parks crews did the work under the guidance of provincial museum archaeologist Grant Keddie.” [The July 2004 photo on the right shows the most prominent burial cairn on the upper slope of Beacon Hill.]
We know almost nothing about these things because the tradition of burying people that way had stopped by the time the Europeans arrived in the 1840's. We can make the assumption that because of the effort needed to build those things there may be fairly well-to-do people buried there. The cairns are now distinctive enough that people won’t mistake them for a rockpile. The next step is to put some information about them nearby. (Times Colonist, December 23, 1986, p. B 5)
A Royal B. C. Museum paper by Grant Keddie titled “Native Indian Use of Beacon Hill Park,” printed in 1988, stated four cairns were constructed on Beacon Hill, not three:
In 1986, scattered boulders from some of the original cairns were moved and used in the reconstruction of four burial cairns. These cairn reconstructions resemble some of those observed in the 19th century. The bases of some partially intact cairns can still be seen close to the reconstructed ones. (Grant Keddie, “Native Indian Use of Beacon Hill Park,” RBCM Notes, Note #14/88, ISSN 0838-598x)
Included in the paper was this illustration of a “beneath-the surface view” of a cairn excavated in Oak Bay in 1898. Keddie wrote: “The body was placed inside a grave pit, surrounded by two rock alignments.”
Keddie described in greater detail how the burial cairns were constructed and presented a short history of those on Beacon Hill:
"Cairns or mounds [were] composed of boulders, stones and dirt. These cairns occurred in many different shapes and sizes and were often located on prominent hillsides. They varied in diameter from one to ten metres and were up to two metres in height. Beneath these cairns a body was usually placed in a shallow grave lined with stones. Rocks of various sizes and dirt were placed over the body and then large boulders placed around or on top of this cluster.
"Burial cairns once extended from the top of Beacon Hill down the south-east slope. It was stated in 1858: 'An attentive observer will note that these mounds of stone are placed in circles, and that a centre mound is within each circle.' At this time, the largest cairn located near the base of the present flag staff was excavated. In it were found human remains and part of a cedar bark mat for wrapping the body.
"In 1871, James Deans, Victoria’s first notable archaeological enthusiast, mentioned that at least 23 cairns 'dot the summit and sides of Beacon Hill, some of which are surrounded with a circular thicket of scrub-oak.'
"In 1897, Deans observed that many of the surface boulders of cairns had been removed. Since the turn of the century, many more of the cairn boulders have been removed, or shoved to new locations. By the 1970's, only one intact cairn and the circular bases of several others embedded in the ground could be seen down the slope of the hill." (Grant Keddie, “Native Indian Use of Beacon Hill Park,” RBCM Notes, Note #14/88, ISSN 0838-598x)
Parks Director Al Smith said in 1986 that a stone with historical information would be placed near the cairns:
“To me it’s going to be one of the more interesting features of the park, especially when we get the stone in place. We should have something showing the Indians were the original owners of the land.” (Times Colonist, December 23, 1986, p. B 5)
[No information sign or marker was erected in 1986 and none had appeared by the end of 2008. Few Victorians and even fewer visitors are aware of the burial cairns. Scotch Broom and blackberries grow around the boulders. The Beacon Hill Park Heritage Landscape Management Plan, submitted to the City in May, 2004, included a heritage value rating for every Park feature. “Aboriginal People’s Burial Cairns” received an “Excellent,” the highest value. The report stated: “The burial cairns are vulnerable, although they have already been highly compromised...Vegetation should be removed from the Aboriginal People’s Burial Cairns.” (p. 70-71) Recent research by University of Victoria graduate student Darcy Mathews has provided valuable data about aboriginal burial cairn construction in the Greater Victoria region and also provides a more enlightened perspective of the reconstructed Beacon Hill burial cairns shown in the above photo. Before Mathews began his work, almost no examination of cairns had been done since the 1800's. Aboriginal burial cairns are a short-lived and localized phenomenon of the Late Prehistoric Period, occurring between 1500-1000 years before the present, according to Mathews. For more on Mathews work, go to Chapter 22 and scroll toward the end of the chapter.]
Chip jogging trail for peace
The Sri Chinmoy Centre offered to construct a two kilometre jogging/walking loop trail in Beacon Hill Park and the Parks Committee approved the wood chip trail in September. According to the Times Colonist, “The trail would run along the west side of Cook Street, loop south past Dallas Road and the wooded area of Beacon Hill Park, run to the west of the children’s playground and back to Cook Street.” (Times Colonist, September 25, 1986, B 15)
The Sri Chinmoy Centre requested permission to erect a memorial on the chip trail with a long inscription. In November, City Council gave permission, but first eliminated these words from the long inscription: “If you want peace in the world, then you first must have peace within yourself.” The wording approved was: “Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile. In honor of the United Nations International Year of Peace.” Ald. Geoff Young said the trail donation was worth thousands of dollars and “They appropriately want to indicate who gave it.” (Times Colonist, November 21, 1986, C 10) [In 2004, the inscription on the granite marker next to the chip trail near Southgate Street at Arbutus Way reads: “The Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile. In Honour of the International Year of Peace. 1986.”]
Police horse patrol
Police constable Brenda Griffin and her horse Bard patrolled the Park the summer of 1986. “He’s excellent with children, curious and quiet,” Griffin said. The 15.3 hand thoroughbred-quarter-horse cross was happy to accept carrots and apples and pats. The horse patrol was intended to reduce theft from automobiles by providing a visible police presence in the Park. Griffin spent five hours daily on mounted patrol and three hours grooming, feeding and tack cleaning. Bard lived in the Children’s farmyard in the Park with deer for neighbours. In September he returned to Oak Meadows Hunter Jumper Stable on Prospect Lake Road, where he was used in lessons. (Times Colonist, August 12, 1986, B 1)
Botanist Christopher Brayshaw recalls a massive broom pull and burn about 1986. Large areas of Scotch broom were removed from the south slope of Beacon Hill and piled north of the hill for burning. Broom seeds germinate well when stimulated by fire and Dr. Brayshaw noted a huge growth of new broom at the location of the fire the following spring. Burning can be a effective strategy to eradicate broom, Brayshaw explained, but it must be a two year operation. New broom growth at the fire site must be burned early before it produces seeds. (Oral account, May 2, 2004)
Long-term Policies for Beacon Hill Park
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, under the direction of Ald. Geoff Young and Parks Committee Chairman Ken Youds, prepared a draft report for City Council titled “Long Term Policies for Beacon Hill Park.” In January, the Commission made the comprehensive report available to the public and Youds asked for public input before tabling the report in February.
Recommendations for the Southeast Woods area included renaming Lovers Lane to “promote its value as a safe place to stroll through the woods rather than a name that implies it is a place for lovers.” The new name proposed was “Woodland Trail.” More toilets were recommended to discourage people from using the bushes “which results in an unsanitary and unaesthetic condition.” The emphasis in natural woodland and grassland areas was to be on preserving native plant species, though paths should be visually clear in the more natural areas and accessible to police, “Since wooded areas in cities can be havens to socially undesirable and even criminal behaviours.”
The report recommended that permanent Park monuments and memorials not contain political, religious or business slogans or ideas. Burial cairns should be preserved and information about historical native use should be displayed on panels and printed in brochures. Locations of middens were not to be publicized, however, to discourage souvenir hunting. The Commission recommended no additional sports fields or clubhouses be allowed in the Park and the existing clubhouses not be expanded.
The Commission concluded it was inappropriate to turn the Lookout Shelter into a restaurant and also that wind made it an unacceptable location for a picnic shelter. The report stated: “The presence of the structure is an attraction to nighttime vandalism and rowdyism and, as a consequence, is an eyesore to daytime park visitors.” The Commission recommendation was to move the Lookout Shelter to the south side of Dallas Road below the Hill, where it could be used as a shelter for group picnics and special events.
The Commission recommended a major change in policy concerning commercialism. It stated that past rules were outdated and contemporary society required new approaches. It concluded that admission charges, sponsorships and fees were acceptable in the Park as long as revenue taken in was spent on operating and improving the Park. The report recommended a Beacon Hill Park Foundation be established to operate the Children’s Farmyard, which could be operated either by the City or a non-profit society with an admission charge, not a donation system. The Foundation would also operate a snack and souvenir stand and organize private sponsorship of other projects. To raise funds, the report proposed a park brochure be published and sold as a souvenir and sponsorship of projects and events in the Park be encouraged.
The first response was from Betty Gibbens. In a short letter to the editor, she focused on the commercial aspects of the report: “It’s a disgrace. We must be hard up for money if we allow sponsorships in the Park. It’s going to change the future of Beacon Hill Park.” (Times Colonist, January 29, 1987, p. B 1)
An editorial in the Times Colonist called the draft report “a good basis for a Park blueprint.” It recalled the master plan advocated “more than ten years” earlier by the Beacon Hill Park Association and noted City Council seemed “to be heeding the wisdom of that advice.” The newspaper disagreed with the “pro-development bias” of the report. It opposed construction of more structures to “improve” the Park while welcoming a limit on sports fields and clubhouses. The editorial approved scrapping a restaurant on the Hill but noted other sales were accepted by the Commission: “The catering compromise suggested is a seasonal snack and souvenir service.” (Times Colonist, February 3, 1987, A 4)
By the end of February, Commission Chairman Ken Youds complained public feedback on the draft management policy was minimal. “I don’t think we are getting enough input.” One concerned resident, however, provided extensive input. Betty Gibbens, identified by reporter Judith Lavoie as the “self-appointed city parks watchdog,” sent a 13 page submission to the Commission.
Gibbon’s brief focused on the legal right of public access to every area of Beacon Hill Park established by the Park Trust and upheld in 1884 by Justice Begbie. The Children’s Farmyard, the two private sports clubhouses and the city maintenance yard should be removed from the Park because “The public is supposed to have free access to every part of the Park,” Gibbons wrote.
Commercialization of any kind was prohibited by the same two legal documents, she reminded City Council. Money collected in the Park--through donations or admission charges--at the Farmyard or for any other event or facility, as well as sponsorship and commercial signs were violations of the Trust and it was the duty of the City of Victoria, as trustees, to uphold the Trust. (Times Colonist, February 27, 1987, B 14) An Opinion column by Gibbens published in the Times Colonist on April 15, 1987 reiterated the same points.
[Betty Gibbens was the key critic of Park development and defender of the Park Trust during the 1980's. The Beacon Hill Park Association was no longer an effective advocate; the Friends of Beacon Hill Park did not organize until 1989. In the tradition of Dr. J. S. Helmcken, Gibbens wrote letters and opinion columns, prepared briefs, attended meetings, met officials and was interviewed by the media. In 2004, Gibbens continues her independent and vigorous defense of the Park Trust.]
In a July, 1987 interview, Betty Gibbens argued that responsibility for approving events and activities in the Park should remain with an elected Council, not be turned over to a non-profit society. She charged that Commission proposals would change the nature of the Park significantly:
The City is exploring avenues that would reinterpret the Trust...and allow the introduction of commerce and money-making activities in the park. There have always been people who have eyed the park for acquisitive purposes--a fire hall, provincial museum, a restaurant, whatever--and contemporary society is no different from the past. (Times Colonist, July 18, 1987, C 8)
Ald. Geoff Young, a member of the Commission, disagreed: “Mrs. Betty Gibbons is quite wrong in suggesting the proposals would change the nature of the park,” he wrote the newspaper. Young claimed the report did not “propose the introduction of commercial profit-making activity. It does propose that non-profit special events...be recognized as legitimate uses of the park.” Young gave the example of the Fairfield Community Association selling pancake breakfasts, which was an unacceptable function under the old policy but acceptable under the new policy. Young wanted special events, such as the Caravan Stage Company, to be able to charge admission, as well. (Times Colonist, July 26, 1987, A 4)
Betty Gibbens, responding to Young’s letter, pointed out that many non-profit organizations and clubs would seek to sell ice cream, hotdogs, liquor, pancakes, hamburgers, drinks, t-shirts and other items in the Park under the new policy. “Groups will be invited to use the park for making money....[and] admission charges will be authorized.”
She also objected to another part of the draft report proposal, which would exclude the public from the cricket and lawn bowling clubhouses except when the clubs use them. Previously, the public had been able to rent the clubhouses for functions. (Times Colonist, August 1, 1987, A 4)
When Council approved most of the “Long Term Policies for Beacon Hill Park" in November, Betty Gibbens’ letter to the newspaper deplored the admissions charges approved for the farmyard and special events and questioned the motives of those promoting the changes:
[Council]...with myopic vision...unwisely approved the new policies...This document was crafted by the non-elected Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, stacked with individuals who belong to associations which would benefit from the fruits of their product...The Park would be used as a resource for money making.” (Times Colonist, November 18, 1987, A 4)
Responding quickly, Geoff Young called Gibbons letter a “skillful polemic...It is totally false to suggest that the policies will make the park a ‘resource for money-making,’ Only non-profit organizations are permitted to charge for food or drink or for admissions to special events.” He took offense at what he said were “personal attacks” on Commission members, saying they “...have a legitimate interest in expressing their own views..” (Times Colonist, November 20, 1987, p. A 4) [See 1992 for another version of the “Long Term Policies for Beacon Hill Park.”]
In 1987, Harold Hosford’s birding column observed “quite a few Cooper’s hawks” were seen nesting in Victoria and remained in the area year-round. (Harold Hosford, “Stray Feathers,” Times Colonist, Islander, February 22, 1987, M 2)
1987 Children’s Farmyard
Dennis Koenders, operator of the Children’s Farmyard since 1985, told City Council he could not afford to continue under the same voluntary system in 1987. Koenders said: “There was too much work and not enough revenue.” He requested permission to display a suggested donation sign of $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission responded that the City should collect donations in a lock box, without a sign suggesting the amount. (The Commission gave up on the lockbox idea when Parks Director Al Smith said the boxes would cost $2,500.)
Koenders reported the farm brought in $30,000 in 1986. About 50% of the 130,000 visitors made a donation. Operating expenses were about $20,000. According to the Times Colonist, “The [Koenders] family is currently living on welfare in Coombs.”
Parks Director Al Smith, a Koenders supporter, claimed it would cost the City $100,000 a year to run the farm in the same manner. (In 1984, the City’s annual budget for the farm was $20,000; that amount was expected to be enough for Park staff to run the farm in 1985. Smith claimed five times that amount was needed in 1987.) (Times Colonist, March 27, 1987, B 7)
Koenders won a concession from City Council, according to reporter Judith Lavoie: “He will be allowed to close half the gate leading into the farm. A sign near the voluntary donation box will explain that the farm is wholly funded by public donations.” Koenders was still not allowed to display a specific “suggested donation” amount of $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. Ald. Geoff Young said: “We have to ask whether the suggestion sign is so close to being an admission fee that it’s not proper.” (Times Colonist, April 3, 1987, p. C 6)
In an Opinion column, Betty Gibbens slammed the donations and the half-closed gate:
Circumventing the spirit and letter of the trust, [Koenders] draws attention to an offering box near an explanatory sign which greets people entering the farm. Council recently authorized him to close half the gate, making it easier to embarrass taxpayers who don’t feel obligated to pay...Unless the city budgets for the farm, using regular staff as before, it should be closed down. (Times Colonist, April 15, 1987, p. A 4)
After another letter from Koenders explaining the changes had not improved donations, the Parks Advisory Commission reversed itself and recommended to Council that a sign be allowed recommending the specific donation amount of $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. The Commission stipulated the sign should emphasize the donation is non-compulsory. (Times Colonist, April 30, 1987, B 1)
In May, Ald. Eric Simmons spoke against posting the suggested donation amounts: “If this is a service enjoyed by Victorians, then why can’t we pay for it out of taxes? That seems the proper, businesslike way to go about it.” Ald. Janet Baird stated again that a non-profit society should run the zoo. She thought donations would never be enough. (Times Colonist, May 8, 1987, p. C 8) [In 2004, the donation sign “suggests” $1.50 for adults and $1 for children.]
Proposal to return the bell to China
In May, Victoria accountant Bernard Dong began a campaign to return the Chinese Bell, displayed in Beacon Hill Park since 1904, to China. He said it was stolen from the city of Funing in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion and didn’t belong in the Park. Dong said:
It is immoral and illegal to have that bell hanging there. It should be returned to China and given back to the descendants of that city...I am a student of Chinese history...The bell was taken from a sacred temple and our moral standards, our shame, should dictate it be returned. If we do not do so it will be a disgrace.
Barry Till, Asian curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, said the bell is in poor condition. “The longer it’s left in the elements the worse it will get. It’s rusted pretty badly and cracks are developing.” Till did not agree the bell should be returned, which would cost up to $5,000. “Probably if the bell had remained in China, it would have been melted down. That happened very often.” (Times Colonist, May 16, 1987, D 1) [See 1989 for details on moving the bell to the Art Gallery.]
No to beer gardens
Victoria City Council Committee of the Whole decided beer gardens would not be allowed in Beacon Hill Park. According to the newspaper report, “The Committee also agreed with a recommendation of the parks and recreation advisory committee that long-term policies for Beacon Hill Park should not include a permanent food facility.” (Times Colonist, November 8, 1987)
Body found in Park
The body of a man was found hanging in the Southeast Woods in November. “We are treating the incident as a suicide,” Police Sergeant Doug Slievert said. The unidentified dead man, about age 40, was found in the woods near the flagpole. (Times Colonist, November 27, 1987, p. B 12)
In January, a thief wearing climbing spurs scaled the Park’s flagpole and stole the Canadian flag and the 76 metre halyard. Parks staff had believed the flagpole and flag were theft and vandal-proof when the halyard was moved up to the ten metre mark. That step was taken after a guy-wire was loosened in 1984 causing the pole to crash to the ground.
Acting Parks Director Don Anderson was disgusted. “I haven’t got a word to describe these people,” he said. The bill to hire a crane, replace the halyard, fittings and flag would be about $1,100 and would take seven to ten days. “We also plan to fill in the gouges made in the pole by the spurs. We’ll use fibreglass or some such material to prevent the wood from taking in moisture and rotting.” (Times Colonist, January 13, 1988, A 1)
Cricket beer sales allowed
In January, the recommendation of the Committee of the Whole to entirely ban beer gardens in Beacon Hill Park went to City Council. That recommendation would reverse the more lenient policy suggested by the Commission that a limited number of community groups be allowed to have beer gardens. Sports clubs counted on beer gardens at tournaments to raise prize money. Council considered allowing sales of alcohol only in the cricket clubhouse and the lawn bowling clubhouse and outlawing drinking outside the buildings during tournaments.
The Victoria Cricket Club received Council’s permission to sell beer at its nine-day international cricket festival in Beacon Hill Park in September while other beer decisions were sent back to the Commission for debate. “There’s no real haste now the cricket club has permission for this year,” Ald. Pieta Van Dyke said. A cricket representative said 200 people come to the tournaments and only 60 to 70 fit inside. Allowing the cricket club to have a beer tent, “infuriated Betty Gibbons, self-appointed parks watchdog,” the newspaper wrote. (Times Colonist, January 22, 1987, B 7)
Nursery expansion out
Ald. Martin Segger wanted the Beacon Hill Park Nursery greenhouses expanded and so did Parks Director Don Anderson. Anderson said expanded greenhouses could be open to the public. “It would be quite an attraction.” 900 hanging flower baskets were being prepared for 1988, each with 25 plants. “The greenhouse is at capacity right now,” Anderson said.
Opposed to expansion were Ald. Geoff Young and “self-appointed parks activist” Betty Gibbens, reporter Judith Lavoie wrote. Young said, “If you are looking for things to move out of Beacon Hill Park, the greenhouses are the best candidate. That work could be done very practically at Thetis Lake Park.” Gibbens--in rare agreement with Young--said only maintenance operations directly related to Beacon Hill Park should be allowed. (Times Colonist, March 24, 1988, B 1)
Though everyone acknowledged City greenhouses needed to expand and more room was needed for hanging baskets, the long-term policies for Beacon Hill Park prohibited new construction in Beacon Hill Park and also called for eventual removal of the maintenance yard.
1988 Children’s Farmyard
The biggest attraction on opening day at the Children’s Farmyard was a three-month-old Sicilian miniature donkey named Cherry Brandy. Also on loan from the Rocky Point donkey ranch in Metchosin was his mother, Lena Horne, and a third donkey named Bunny. Another new addition was Twilight, a French lop rabbit dropped over the fence into the barnyard the month before. Three six-week-old weaner piglets were favorites. Private operator Dennis Koenders anticipated a good year. He said he would be writing to the Parks and Recreation Commission about enlarging the main barn. Fences need replacing as well and the aviaries upgraded. (Times Colonist, March 28, 1988, A 2)
A new horse named Sabre was added to the farmyard in May. The “easy-going 30 year old Appaloosa-Arab” was donated to the petting zoo. Koenders said, “At first the peacocks startled him. He was not thrilled by their screeching but now he just walks over them.” Sabre was the first resident horse since Queenie died 18 years before. (Times Colonist, May 4, 1988, B 1)
The acquisition of Sabre prompted the Parks and Recreation Commission to recommend Council modify the agreement with Koenders to ensure future acquisition of large animals are first approved by the City. Commission member Bev Horsman said, “We are worried about the liability and the space.” Commission member Chris Coleman said “Sabre is a very very large pony. He may be classified as a pony, but he looks like a horse to me.” Roger Skillings, also on the Commission, was in favor of the pony. Koenders submitted a plan to the Commission for enlarging the farm over a four year period. (Times Colonist, May 12, 1988, B 15)
In July, a crowd of Park visitors watched Chiclet, a small white goat, give birth to two kids. Koenders reported, “About 30 people watched the birth. Chiclet didn’t seem to mind. It was the first time that most people had seen baby goats born.” More than 30 goats were at the petting farm. Many of the kids had already been adopted, Koenders said. Bad weather had reduced farmyard visitors by about 25%. (Times Colonist, July 7, 1988, B 1)
Police horse patrol cut from budget
Police Chief Bill Snowdon said the police horse patrol was cut from the budget even though thefts from cars had been reduced by the patrol in 1987. He said the Police Department would look for a corporate sponsor to cover the horse patrol costs of $2,500 a year. (Times Colonist, May 11, 1988, B 1)
An editorial in the Times Colonist spoke against Police Chief Snowdon’s corporate sponsorship idea. The writer imagined similar “interesting possibilities” in the Park and the City:
commercial nurseries sponsoring individual flower beds in the park; janitorial and landscaping firms adopting specific streets and boulevards; painters and decorators offering spruce-up demos on City Hall and other city buildings. There is at least one snag...the more prominently their sponsorship is identified and signposted, the better they like it...It’s too bad about the mounted patrols having to be out, but this isn’t the way to retain them. (Times Colonist, May 13, 1988, A 4)
The Gyro Club of Victoria, a local service club, came forward to offer $2,500 for the horse patrol. Const. Bill Traptow and Const. Brenda Griffin would share Park duty on a leased horse from June 30 to September 6. Sgt. Harvey Stevenson said the Gyro Club’s sponsorship “covers the lease of the horse, tack, feed and everything we need for the horse.” (Times Colonist, June 1, 1988, B 1 and June 24, 1988 A 3)
Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission suggested one of the two deer pens at Beacon Hill Park could be used for a recreation area for Sabre, the Park pony, as well as for the police horse while it was working in the Park. (Times Colonist, June 12, 1988, M 20)
Park administration shuffle
No longer was one man responsible for the entire City of Victoria parks system and boulevards, as in the days of Parks Administrator W. H. Warren. In 1988, the highest authority in the Parks Department was Recreation Director John Plantinga, with an office on Pandora Street. Don Anderson, who had been Acting Parks Director, was appointed Parks Superintendent, with an office in the Parks maintenance yard in Beacon Hill Park. Anderson reported to Plantinga. (Times Colonist, June 12, 1988, M 20)
Dead man found in Park
A dead man was found in Beacon Hill Park on July 18, 1988. Details about this event appeared much later, in an April, 1989 news report. Victoria regional coroner Darryl Stephens ruled the man, aged between 55 and 65, died of a drug overdose ten days before he was found. There was no identification or personal possessions on the body and no evidence of violence or injury. Lethal levels of codeine and acetaminophen were found in the body. He was never identified. (Times Colonist, April 19, 1989, A 11)
Great Blue Heron Colony
Visitors to Beacon Hill Park were surprised by the screams of Great Blue Herons as a Bald Eagle scooped up a young heron from its nest in the colony in June. Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Philip Whitehead claimed the eagles “won’t impact on the population.” He noted some young herons had died from exposure during harsh weather. Each nest might began with four or five eggs, but only half survived, he said. (Times Colonist, June 17, 1988, D 1)
According to researcher Dr. Robert Butler, there were a total of 64 occupied nests in the Beacon Hill Park heron colony in 1988. The nests were built in large Douglas Firs located a few feet from Douglas Street, opposite Avalon Street, near the southwest edge of Goodacre Lake. Butler gave this precise location: N. Latitude 48 degrees 25 minutes, Longitude 123 degrees 21 minutes. “The number fledged per successive nests” was 1.7 in 1988. (Butler, The Great Blue Heron--A Natural History and Ecology of a Seashore Sentinel. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997, Appendix 1)
1988 nest data from Breault on the same heron colony, lists 63 active nests and 74 fledged chicks. (Ross Vennesland, Great Blue Heron Breeding Colony Database, Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management.) The Beacon Hill Park heron colony was thriving in the City in spite of the noise from cars and bus motors, recycling trucks, people shouting, dogs barking and doors slamming. (See Chapter 17 and 18 for more on herons.)
Chinese Bell moved
In January, City Council approved $650 to move the Chinese Temple Bell to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. The bell was being destroyed by weather and vandals in the outdoor location in Beacon Hill Park. Another option--building a thermostatically controlled house around the bell--was considered and rejected in December, 1988.
The bell was cast between 1641 and 1642, looted from Funing county in Yunnan province during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, and hung in Beacon Hill Park in 1904.
In a report to the City, Barry Till, curator of Asian art said he saw people banging on the bell with coins, keys, stones and branches. At one point a cutting torch created a large gap and cracks developed from that space. Vandals swung the bell high and hard against the pillars of the pavilion. “Cracks have already started developing in it and there is a potential for metal fatigue. It’s time we did something.” Till said restoring the bell might cost $8,000. The bell would be placed in a protected display location at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria; the City would apply for a heritage grant to do the work. (Times Colonist, January 6, 1989)
On January 23, 1989, after hanging for eighty-five years at the junction of Lookout Road and Circle Drive, the 479 kg. (954 lb.) bell was carefully lowered onto a platform (see photo) and moved to the Art Gallery.
According to a booklet written by Barry Till, the heavy corrosion and paint residue was later removed, the iron stabilized and covered with a coating of mirathane, with funds provided by the B.C. Heritage Trust. (Barry Till, Relic From a Distant Temple--Victoria’s Chinese Bell. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1992.)
[In 2004, the roof structure and a concrete pad with the date “1904" remain at the bell’s old location in Beacon Hill Park. Until 2002, when water restrictions ended the tradition, a gigantic hanging flower basket hung in the bell’s place. See 1904 for more on the bell.]
Snow drivers damage grass
Parks Superintendent Don Anderson said every time it snowed, people tried to see how far they could drive vehicles up snow-covered grassy hills. Vehicles plowed through snow on flat lawn areas as well, causing thousands of dollars of damage. (Times Colonist, March 9, 1989, p. C 10)
Pot-bellied pigs and bees at farmyard
“Roseanne and Sasha are going to be two of our biggest attractions,” Lynda Koenders, co-operator of the “Beacon Hill Children’s Farm” told the Times Colonist in March. “So ugly, they are cute...They love to have their bellies rubbed and they are litter trained. They have been living in our living room in Coombs.” When reporter Judith Lavoie visited the farm just before it opened in March, the four-month old Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, sporting orange and red harnesses, were following the Koenders around.
Dennis Koenders claimed pot-bellied pigs were ideal pets. “Their tails don’t curl but when you talk to them, they wag.” In Vietnam, the pigs were eaten, but at $1,500 per pig in Canada, they were pets. The young pigs weighed 18 kilograms but would grow to about 45 kilograms. (Times Colonist, March 16, 1989, p. B 1) The pot-bellied pigs story continued in August with a photo of Sasha with her four new piglets. (Times Colonist, August 18, 1989, B 1) [The local newspaper continued to print cute animal photos every year, providing positive and free publicity for the farmyard.]
In May, the farm boasted another attraction, an observation bee hive, made of plexiglass and full of honey bees. “Some people just walk by really quickly but others stand there for a half hour watching the bees work. They are mesmerized,” Dennis Koenders said. A $60,000 upgrade was scheduled for the petting farm. Under a special program, a crew of Vocational College special-needs students and four welfare recipients would start building fences and walkways in June. (Times Colonist, May 18, 1989, B 11)
Naturalists organized to preserve Southeast Woods
In 1989, a few vocal Cook Street residents demanded City Council and police stop alleged gay sexual liaisons, sex trade transactions and drinking parties in the southeast woods. Concerns about homosexual men meeting in the southeast woods--a contentious issue since 1979--increased in 1989 as accusations of vague crimes and sordid behaviours taking place in the woods circulated. During spring and early summer, pressure increased on City officials to take action in the Cook Street-Dallas Road corner.
In April, columnist Jim Hume wrote the “shifty-eyed surveillance” of men in the bushes with their “sordid watchful eyes” caused him to stop walking in the southeast woods. He predicted evil would spread through the Park if good citizens “surrendered” that “family area to the fornicators.” He warned: “It’s a park problem, confined at present to one or two festering areas but destined to spread as more people express my type of concern by staying away...” He suggested organizing “family activity from egg and spoon races to...picnics to organized nature walks...” so the “hookers” would “find it difficult to satisfy their appetites...” (Times Colonist, April 18, 1989, A 5)
Ald. Pieta Van Dyke, Parks and Recreation Chairman, responded: “People take vans in there and various activities take place in vans and in the bush...I don’t think we provide parks for this kind of business.”
Police Superintendent Doug Richardson recommended “drastic action.” He suggested the Lovers Lane parking lot be closed, washrooms removed and underbrush cleared. He wanted a gate erected and lighting installed. Parks and Recreation Director John Plantinga wanted to hit the problem “with a big enough hammer,” which apparently meant two lamp standards, not one. Cook Street resident Pat Dashwood, in a letter to Mayor Gretchen Brewin, said the corner should have open paths and the undergrowth cut back to “eliminate the male prostitutes.” The problem was sent to the Beacon Hill Park sub-committee for study. (Times Colonist, April 14, 1989, B 1) By May, Council was nearing a final decision on developing the area. Plans were to clear “underbrush” and to install picnic tables, barbecue pits, play equipment and two streetlights.
A new group--the Friends of the Southeast Wood--organized quickly to preserve the woods. They pulled together botanists, naturalists and birders to inventory native plants, trees, shrubs and birds in the undeveloped area. Anne Fletcher, co-founder of the group, told the Times Colonist:
This is the last remaining wooded area of its kind in the Park. This kind of habitat has almost gone from the inner urban area. An area has already been cleared for the jogging trail and although some people think the area is large and this little swack out of it won’t matter, we have been told it is barely large enough to support the representative sample of plants it contains at the moment. (Times Colonist, May 11, 1989, B 1)
The Friends walked the area with Dr. Adolf Ceska and Dr. Robert Ogilvie, botanists from the Royal British Columbia Museum, who identified 37 native trees, shrubs and herbs in the southeast corner of the Park. Fred Sharpe, a visiting naturalist and ornithologist from Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, identified 13 species of birds in the woods, including a Cooper’s hawk.
Fletcher said: “If the underbrush goes, it will affect the hawk’s food supply and we don’t know how he’ll take to ghetto blasters in the barbecue area.” Helen Oldershaw, co-founder of the Friends with Fletcher, said “the underbrush holds water and provides protection for the large trees.” Emlen Littell, of the Sierra Club, said “It is a neat little ecosystem of its own. It is a good healthy shrub patch.”
Ald. Van Dyke pooh-poohed the birders concerns: “It’s not a very protected area for birds. It’s the sexual nesting areas we don’t want there...It’s an enormous area and only five or ten percent of the brush is to be cleared.” (Times Colonist, May 11, 1989, B 1)
Anne Fletcher and Helen Oldershaw prepared a brief and presented it to City Council. Also speaking against clearing the wood were the Sierra Club and Victoria Natural History Society. As a result, the southeast corner “gained a temporary reprieve” while the Friends and their supporters developed plans to change use patterns in the area. (Times Colonist, May 13, 1989, D 1)
An article in The Victoria Naturalist by Bob Nixon and Reuben Ware described what was at stake:
The Wood can be described as a dense coastal shrub thicket. In spite of its relatively small size, it contains a real diversity of native plants. In this survey...28 different species of native shrubs and herbaceous plants and nine species of native trees were found. There are more than twice as many species of native plants as there are introduced species...
The area proposed for clearing acts as a buffer zone to protect the Wood from the prevailing, and often salty, south east winds in the winter. (The Victoria Naturalist, Vol. 46.1, July/August, p. 12-13)
The same article described plans to close numerous small trails, which would be replanted with native plants and fenced until the plants grew. Signs were planned to provide information on habitat for visitors. Nature walks would be conducted.
Nixon and Ware also expressed concern about rare native plants outside the southeast woods in other areas of the Park:
In the present Parks Department planning process, clearing of native plants and woods can occur without any public announcement...The wild uncultivated areas of the entire park should have special status so that they are permanently protected. (The Victoria Naturalist, Vol. 46.1, July/August, p. 12-13)
Though one Cook Street resident continued to demand the southeast woods be cleared, not all nearby residents agreed. John Rubelke, a resident of 35 Cook Street for 27 years, wrote: “There are some problems...but they are being blown out of proportion so that another area of our beautiful park can be ripped up. We would like to see this lovely area protected...” (Times Colonist, May 23, 1989, A 4)
A murder taking place far from and completely unrelated to the southeast woods was connected to the woods by Ald. Pieta Van Dyke in June. Though the incident involved two transients at the northwest edge of the Park, Van Dyke expressed alarm publicly about “security” in the Park and called for a police report on past murders in the southeast woods, where no murder had ever occurred:
I would like a police report on security in Beacon Hill Park, what sort of investigations have been carried out in the southeast wood, what crackdowns there have been, what murders took place there in the past and how to maintain your personal safety in the Park. (Times Colonist, June 16, 1989, B 1)
Anne Fletcher, speaking for the Friends of the Southeast Woods, pointed out that Van Dyke was scaring people away from the woods and making it harder to save them. (Times Colonist, June 17, 1989, D 1) (See the following section for details on the murder and police report on crime in the Park.)
By September, the Friends of the Southeast Woods evolved into a wider-based organization called Friends of Beacon Hill Park. This group became a registered non-profit society and a long-lived, strong defender of natural areas in the Park. In 2004--fifteen years later--the Friends of Beacon Hill Park continues to be an effective advocacy group.
Writing in the fall issue of The Victoria Naturalist as a representative of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, Anne Fletcher explained the Friends reflected “broader concerns with the natural and human history of the park as a whole.” Fletcher reported a survey was conducted of lower Cook Street residents near the woods in June and “almost all of them support what we are doing.” (The Victoria Naturalist, Vol. 46.2, September/October, p. 16-17)
The Friends led more than 400 people on nature and history tours of the Park between July and November. In December, Anne Fletcher told the newspaper that problems in the area were exaggerated and “It is likely the gays in the wood were being blamed for all the teenagers’ drinking problems.” The group had discovered that teenagers driving or walking up Cook Street after leaving parties on the beach were responsible for most of the noise previously blamed on gay men and parties in the southeast woods.(Times Colonist, December 22, 1989, B 1)
Council delayed a decision on brush clearing until December, when Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission Chairman Chris Coleman reported the situation had improved in the woods. The Commission recommended no cutting take place. (See 1990 for more on the southeast woods and the Friends of Beacon Hill Park.)
Murder and police report
A police search found an Ontario man dead in Beacon Hill Park on June 12. Following a tip, the police located 26 year-old John Geroux “200 metres east of Douglas Street in the northern part of Beacon Hill Park.” He had been strangled. Daniel Dube was charged with second-degree murder. (Times Colonist, June 15, 1989, B 1, June 22, 1989, A 8, August 11, 1989, B 10)
Responding to Ald. Van Dyke’s request for a report on crime in the Park, Police Sgt. Harvey Stevenson stated that total criminal acts in the Park dropped more than 11% in the previous year, but “indecent acts” had increased from two to fifteen. “The indecent acts were males...and did not appear to occur in any concentrated area.” There were nine assaults in the Park in the previous 12 months compared to five the year before. “In these cases, a group of juveniles preyed on single males in the southeast corner of the park and assaulted and robbed them.” [Homosexual men were the victims in these attacks.] Sgt. Stevenson said the murder in the northwest area of the Park was “a separate incident” in which two male transients drank a bottle of wine in the Park, had an argument and one was strangled. (Times Colonist, July 19, 1989, B 1)
Sex offender photographs girls
In July, a man was charged with loitering after police received complaints he was taking photographs of young girls on swings in the Park playground. The newspaper called him the “Beacon Hill Park pervert” and reported he took “crotch shots” of girls playing on the swings. The man had a record of sexual abuse and was prohibited from being near a playground or public park. In August, Robert Heywood was charged with two counts of loitering in the Park. (Times Colonist, July 27, 1989, B 1, August 17, 1989, B 1)
Horse patrol and barn proposal
Beacon Hill Park’s mounted horse patrol was back in the police budget in 1989. When the horse patrol was cut in 1988, the Gyro Club had donated the $2,500 for the patrol to continue. Chief Constable Bill Snowdon said the cost would be about the same in 1989. (Times Colonist, May 25, 1989, C 6)
In July, Const. Ruth Lick, the lone officer assigned to the Park’s horse patrol sustained a concussion and hairline skull fracture when she hit an overhanging branch during the pursuit of young people alleged to be consuming liquor. She would be off work for an “undetermined time.” (Times Colonist, July 25, 1989, D 1)
In October, Victoria police proposed a permanent three-stall barn be constructed in the deer pen area of Beacon Hill Park for police horses used during summer patrols in Beacon Hill Park. Previously, the police horse had used a stall at the petting zoo, but the City was informed there was no room for the horse in 1989. Const. Ruth Lick transported the horse to the Park each day with a truck and trailer during the 1989 patrol season. (Times Colonist, October 12, 1989 B 1) [See 1990 for more on the barn.]
Gingko tree planted
A gingko tree, donated by eighty residents of Morioka, was planted in Beacon Hill Park in June. The Japanese were visiting Victoria to celebrate the 100th centennial of their city’s incorporation. Morioka was Victoria’s official “sister city.” Jay Rangel, chairman of Victoria’s sister city committee, said “A gingko tree is a tree that existed in ancient times and was discovered in China during the last century growing in a temple. Now it is a very popular tree in Japan.” The gingko tree is often called a “living fossil.” [There are several gingko trees in the Park in 2004 but Assistant Supervisor Al Cunningham said the 1989 tree did not survive.] Victoria sent Morioka a pair of bighorn sheep, a pair of river otters and two cougars for the centennial. (Times Colonist, June 14, 1989, B 1)
Tallest totem refurbished
Scaffolding surrounded the world’s tallest totem pole in July as workmen prepared to refurbish it after thirty-three years. Carved by Mungo Martin, it was erected July 2, 1956. A newspaper photo showed native painter John Livingstone working high on the scaffolding. (Times Colonist, July 18, 1989, A 6, August 10, 1989 A 1)
Successful swim across the Strait
Exactly thirty-three years after Marilyn Bell swam from Port Angeles to Victoria, Vicki Keith attempted the difficult crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca using the grueling butterfly stroke. If successful, twenty-eight year old Keith would become the first person since 1956 to complete the swim.
Keith expected to take 16 to 20 hours to finish the marathon swim, but surprised herself by arriving in 14 hours. “I never swam that fast in my life,” she said. ‘It was the toughest swim I’ve done because of the cold.” She started at 2:10 a.m. at Ediz Hook off Port Angeles and arrived in Victoria at 4:10 p.m. She swam 32.35 kilometres to cover a straight-line distance of 26.5 kilometres because of tide and currents. Thousands of cheering spectators lined the beaches and cliffs of Beacon Hill Park to welcome her. (Times Colonist, August 11, 1989, A 1)
Pagliacci’s 10th Birthday concert
Restaurateur Howie Siegel asked City Council for permission to celebrate Pagliacci restaurant’s tenth birthday by presenting a free rhythm and blues concert at the Cameron Bandshell. Scheduled to perform on August 19 was Etta James--who Siegel called the “foremost rhythm and blues artist of three decades”--with her eight-piece band, plus two Victoria groups. The $25,000 concert would be paid for by co-owners David and Howie Siegel.
Howie Siegel told City Council not to worry about noise and crowd control: “This is a rhythm and blues band, not a rock and roll group.” People attending would be more “mature and sophisticated” than the rowdy crowds drawn to rock concerts.
Siegel wanted Etta James to finish at 10:15 or 10:30 and Council agreed. Victoria’s Parks Advisory Commission had first turned down Siegel’s request to go later than 9:30 p.m, suggesting the show start earlier, at 6 p.m. Siegel said that was impossible:
It is critical in our long history of staging music to begin the show at 7:30...I suggest that there will be an absolute minimum of disruption to the park and to the neighbours. This is NOT, NOT rock and roll. (Times Colonist, July 20, 1989, B 1, & July 21, 1989, B 14)
The concert was “a birthday bash on a grand scale,” the Times Colonist reported, with “several thousand spectators.” David Siegel said, “I couldn’t see the back of the crowd and it was impossible to walk through it. Everyone had a wonderful time.” Both Siegel and Victoria police said there were no problems with the exception of a few noise complaints.
About blues singer Etta James, Siegel said: “She was just wonderful. The way she moves--she’s got to be the sexiest woman you’ve ever seen for someone who’s 100 pounds overweight.” (Times Colonist, August 21, 1989, A 3)
Great Blue Heron colony
Active Great Blue Heron nests in tall Beacon Hill Park trees at Douglas Street and Avalon numbered 55 in 1989, with 45 chicks fledging. (Ross Vennesland, Great Blue Heron Breeding Colony Database, Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management)
Native plants “mowed flat”
Under the headline “Beacon Hill’s wild fields ‘dead as a doornail,’” reporter Grania Litwin wrote: “What used to be fields of waving wild grasses, lilies and rare flowers have been mowed flat by Victoria’s Parks Department.” Kay Lines, a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, was disgusted and demanded a change in mowing practices. She said:
During the early summer, Holland Point and the natural areas of Beacon Hill Park are a delight to the eye and senses. Progressions of daffodils, blue Camas lilies, the endangered blue Brodiaea and rare exotic grasses provide havens for butterflies and small birds feeding and nesting in the tall grass.
But that is all gone now...mowed flat by city hall...The fields at Beacon Hill Park look dead as a doornail...just stubble now. Our city seems to want the park to look all neat and tidy and controlled with little flowers saluting in neat spaces, not growing as flowers naturally do.
We may have had a hot dry season last summer which warranted this kind of mowing, but not this year. There was no fire hazard, the grass wasn’t high and it was very green. The Camas lilies had barely gone down and the blue Brodiaea were just coming up. (Times Colonist, July 6, 1989 B 1)
The most prominent and best known native wild flowers in the Park are Common Camas
(Camassia quamash), shown on the left, and Great Camas (Camassia leichtlinii).
The distinctive white flower of the Death Camas (Zygadenus venenosus) can be
seen in a field of blue Camas on the right.
Lines wrote that just before Beacon Hill Park meadows were mowed, the Queen’s gardener, on a visit to Victoria from England, gave a talk on preserving wild grasses to the Victoria Horticultural Society. He told the Society: “grasses in parks in England are not mowed until August and in other parts of Europe they are not mowed at all for environmental reasons.” Lines continued:
We declare ourselves a City of Gardens...and cutting like this is so unnecessary. People are spending lots of money buying packets of wild grasses and flower seeds. There is enormous interest in them because they attract butterflies and little tiny birds.
What was so sad was the day after the field was mowed all the butterflies and little birds were gone...” (Times Colonist, July 6, 1989, p. B1)
Parks Superintendent Don Anderson said, “We receive lots of complaints from people who want to walk through the grass and don’t like it when it is high.”
Dr. Robert Ogilvie, curator of botany at the Royal B. C. Museum, was particularly concerned about the rare Harvest Brodiaea (seen below on far left):
It is a very attractive, very striking flower. It grows in the wild grassy areas of Beacon Hill Park...It is just coming into flower now... A good plan for managing the park would be to delay mowing of those meadows until the wildflowers have finished flowering and seeding. If we want to have these flower meadows flourish and increase and do better, the simple way to do it would be to delay mowing. Cutting too soon weakens the plant, because it chops off green tops and doesn’t allow them to manufacture more food to go down to the bulbs. (Times Colonist, July 6, 1989, p. B1)
Native flowering plants of Beacon Hill Park adversely affected by early mowing include,
left to right: Harvest Brodiaea (Brodiaea coronaria), White Fawn Lily
(Erythronium oregonum), Prairie Violet (Viola praemorsa),
and Satin Flower (Sisyrinchium douglasii).
In August, the Victoria Advisory Parks and Recreation Commission recommended a change in mowing procedures near Dallas Road. Reporter Bill Cleverley wrote: “Beacon Hill Park’s natural grass areas--for years mowed down every spring--could be left to grow naturally again, even if it means changing bylaws to do it.” John Plantinga, City Parks and Recreation Director, said the Camas area along Dallas Road would not be cut until the second or third week in July and the meadow at Holland Point would be cut the second week of August, for a one year trial period. He said fire officials would monitor the longer growing periods. He said, “A lot of people don’t like the long grass because it is hard to walk through...” (Times Colonist, August 12, 1989)
Native flowering plants of Beacon Hill Park shown above are, left to right: Western Buttercup
(Ranunculus occidentalis), Hooker’s Onion (Allium acuminatum), Shooting Star
(Dodecatheon hendersonii), and Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria lanceolata).
[For more on how mowing affects native and exotic plants, see 2002. For disappearing native plant species, see 1990, 2001, 2004.]