Saanich OKs $5.5M-deal for park edging Royal Jubilee Hospital

Saanich councillors have agreed to pay $5.5 million for 5.5 acres bordering Royal Jubilee Hospital, with the aim of turning the property into a park.

Councillors agreed on Tuesday to enter a conditional purchase agreement with B.C. Hydro, the owner of the green space in the 1800 block of Kings Road. The municipality is expected to take possession of the property in the fall.

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The land, which locals have long called “Kings Park,” became the focus of community controversy about a year ago when residents learned B.C. Hydro had decided to sell it.

Residents organized and made the sale an issue in the last municipal election, gathering political commitments to buy it as a park.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said Wednesday that councillors are living up to their commitment to save the land as green space.

“They didn’t get elected and then turn their backs on the community.”

Map - 'Kings Park'

Saanich bureaucrats are now working on a plan to borrow about $4 million, with the remaining $1.5 million to come from municipal reserve funds.

Councillors also hope to raise $2.75 million to offset the cost. They plan to approach the provincial and federal governments, the Capital Regional District and neighbouring municipalities of Oak Bay and Victoria, whose residents also use the green space.

Community groups have previously offered to raise money for the land purchase. If the extra money can’t be raised, the municipality will consider selling a portion of the 5.5 acres.

Rebecca Sterritt, who, with her husband, Adam Kreek, led much of the campaign to preserve the land as green space, is looking forward to working with governments and the community to raise money for the purchase.

Sterritt said the property’s size and location make it ideal for a park that serves a large number of people.

She said a space for picnic tables and quiet rest could be connected to the neighbouring hospital grounds with a wheelchair-accessible pathway to serve patients and staff.

Community garden plots could be built, the riparian zone of Bowker Creek could be preserved for nature walks and kids’ adventure play, and the large grassy field could serve as space for off-leash dogs.

“Frankly, it’s so big, I really do believe we can have it all,” Sterritt said.

The land is mostly zoned for institutional use, with the exception of three lots zoned for single-family housing: 2661 Richmond Rd., and 1843 and 1845 Kings Rd.

B.C. Hydro bought the land in 1958 with plans to use it for an electrical substation, but later decided to locate future substations in the West Shore.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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