Seven years later, Burnside Gorge compensated for park

Seven years after losing a park to make way for Rock Bay Landing, the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood is finally getting replacement greenspace.

The City of Victoria announced last week that it has agreed to spend $950,000 to buy two properties and a portion of a third that will be transformed into greenspace to expand Cecelia Ravine Park by a fifth of a hectare.

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The purchase is said to fulfil the promise council made in 2009 to provide replacement greenspace to the neighbourhood when the Rock Bay Landing shelter was built on the site of a small, rundown park in the 500 block of Ellice Street.

The replacement space was too long in coming, said Mayor Lisa Helps, who wasn’t on council when the earlier decision was made.

“Now when we make a commitment, we’ll make a commitment, set a timeline, say when we’re going to deliver it, and deliver it,” she said.

The decision to remove Ellice Street Park to make way for the shelter was controversial, marking the first time in the city’s history that a park had been removed from the inventory.

Hundreds of people signed a petition against the move. Some were angered by what they said was a lack of consultation and others argued that the area already was carrying its fair share of the burden of homelessness.

Ultimately, councillors agreed to use the parkland, but at the same time committed to a “no net loss” of parkland in Burnside Gorge.

The city says the newly acquired land is 120 square metres bigger than than the minimum amount to be replaced.

Paul Gerrard was president of the Burnside Gorge Community Association when the Ellice Street Park decision was made.

“It’s been a long time, but I think it’s a good thing,” he said.

The acquired properties, which include an unoccupied house that is to be demolished, are located on Cecelia Road and Washington Avenue, adjacent to the Galloping Goose Regional Trail and Cecelia Ravine Park.

Coun. Geoff Young, council liaison to Burnside Gorge, said there’s no shortage of demands on park space.

Those demands might be even more acute in Burnside Gorge, as even the consultant drafting the city’s parks and open spaces master plan remarked that the northwest area of the city is less well-served in terms of park space than other areas of the city.

Young said he didn’t know whether residents will recognize that the new property acquisition is related to the construction of the Rock Bay Landing shelter.

“The impact of the Ellice Street shelter is significant. The loss of the park has been less remarked on [by shelter neighbours],” he said.

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