Remediated waterfront land becoming park at Laurel Point

The City of Victoria will ask the public for input, design ideas and wish lists this fall for a new waterfront park in James Bay after the federal government announced it will give two acres of waterfront land at Laurel Point to the city.

“It’s quite amazing. It’s not everyday you get handed two acres of waterfront land,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, noting the gift will be combined with an acre of land already owned by the city, allowing it to create a three-acre waterfront park.

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The land being handed over at Laurel Point has been undergoing a massive remediation since the fall of 2018.

The $20 million remediation — $17 million from Ottawa funded by the federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan and $3 million from the city — saw the cleanup of land that had been home to a factory producing paints, varnishes and lacquers between 1906 and the early 1970s.

In an interview, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the remediation involved the removal of 3,000 tonnes of contaminants from the water in the first phase and 75,000 tonnes of soil in the second.

Garneau said as they did when they cleaned up a Rock Bay industrial site three years ago, they will monitor the Laurel Point site over the next year to ensure the remediation has done its job before handing over the land to Victoria.

“The Government of Canada takes its responsibility to clean up federal contaminated sites like Victoria’s Middle Harbour seriously,” Garneau said. “Today’s announcement demonstrates concrete action and illustrates our ongoing commitment to protecting Canada’s marine environment and residents.”

By the time Ottawa hands over the property, the city should have a design in mind for the park.

Helps said the city will engage the public from September to February to get ideas for the space.

“The community has gotten pretty good at designing parks,” she said, noting there were recent examples in Vic West and in the Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood where the public shaped playgrounds.

Helps said there is room in the 2019 budget for the engagement and design process, though the actual development will be funded in either the 2020 or 2021 capital plan.

The new three-acre park will be tied into the David Foster Harbour Pathway in two places. There will be interim work to accommodate that until the final design is established.

“Our population is growing and green spaces are really important, particularly in the downtown and adjacent neighbourhoods,” Helps said. “This area will be a jewel in our community for many generations to come.”

Garneau used the occasion to announce the federal government was ready to spend another $1.6 billion through the Contaminated Sites Action Plan over the next five years to “go after” 1,350 more contaminated sites around the country, including 475 on First Nation reserves.

He said that will mean the federal government will take responsibility for site cleanup and for doing assessments on another 240 sites that may be contaminated.

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