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Richard Layritz also helped beautify Victoria

Re: “Victoria’s parks benefited from Herb Warren’s passion,” March 16.

 

Re: “Victoria’s parks benefited from Herb Warren’s passion,” March 16.

While I do not wish to belittle the contributions of Herb Warren to Victoria’s horticultural splendour, I feel compelled to raise awareness about the importance of an earlier pioneer, Richard Emil Layritz, whose local legacy lives on in the form of many flowering boulevard trees in downtown Victoria.

Layritz arrived in Victoria in the late 1880s with just enough money to put a downpayment on 10 acres on Wilkinson Road. He started his nursery business, but after a few years the local economy was crippled by a smallpox epidemic, followed by the collapse of the Point Ellice Bridge, so Layritz followed the Klondike gold rush. He returned after a year with enough savings to pay off his debts and buy more land on Ash Road in Gordon Head.

During the early 1900s, hard work paid off, and Layritz developed a thriving business in growing and shipping nursery products. Known worldwide, he shipped more than 300 different varieties of rhododendrons throughout the United States. His roses helped develop the “rose city” of Portland, and his fruit-tree stock helped establish the Okanagan fruit industry. Layritz’s spring flowering trees lined the fledgling city of Victoria, and many still stand today.

Toward the end of his life, Layritz and later his wife, donated 15 acres for the purpose of creating Little League Baseball diamonds. If you visit the wonderful fields at Layritz Park, just off Wilkinson Road, take a moment to acknowledge the efforts and legacy of this hard-working pioneer and entrepreneur.

Penny Stevens

Victoria