Another Island sports club faces a looming shutdown. The twist on this one, however, is that it has nothing to do with COVID-19.
The Victoria Bowmen Archery Club will lose its home outdoor range in View Royal on Sept. 1, due not to the pandemic, but a contentious new handyDART bus facility.
The Victoria Bowmen have a proud history and produced four Olympians — Vi Muir at Munich in 1972, Wanda Allan at Montreal in 1976 and Los Angeles in 1984, and John McDonald and Brenda Cuming at Seoul in 1988.
“Archery only came into the Olympics in 1972, so that’s a big deal and quite impressive for our club,” said Al Wills, president of the Victoria Bowmen.
The Bowmen also hosted the 1997 world championships at Centennial Stadium.
The Bowmen club started in 1949 in the area between Shelbourne and Richmond streets west of Hillside Avenue. It moved in 1953 to Cuthbert Holmes Park before relocation to DND land off Wilfert Road in Colwood from 1965 to 2005 and then to the current View Royal location on provincially owned land, which is now designated to be a handyDART bus depot.
The depot will spell the demise of the 100-plus member Bowmen as an outdoor club. The club will still shoot at Saanich Commonwealth Place, its indoor home in fall and winter for more than 20 years, and where netting protects the walls from errant arrows.
“But outdoors shooting is the Olympic side of the sport,” said Wills, who is also president of Archery Canada.
The club occupies less than half a hectare on the View Royal site, but its range is located where B.C. Transit intends to put its buildings.
Some local residents objected to the logistics of the bus facility and View Royal council twice rejected the proposal in 2018 and 2019, while acknowledging it did not have the legal power to do so.
Last September, it presented the provincial Ministry of Transportation with a list of demands that have to be met before the project can proceed at 2401 Burnside Rd. West.
“Other sites were examined and considered, including in the West Shore and Central Saanich, but those locations would have cost millions more in capital costs,” wrote Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena, in a Times Colonist commentary in November.
“Building a new handyDART facility in View Royal is an essential part of the puzzle that will ensure people in the region will have a reliable transit system for many years to come.”
Wills said the politics are out of the control of the club. The bottom line is the club has lost its home range. He said the unique demands of outdoor archery are such that the club has found no other host sites, despite its long history in the region.
An archery range is 70 metres, but arrows can travel up to 400 metres if they miss the target, so a berm or hill backstop, is needed behind a range. Wills said the Bowmen spent nearly $60,000 building a berm behind the View Royal range.
“We have looked at many other options [for a new home] — from Royal Roads to the old Thetis Lake pistol range — and talked to literally everybody,” said Wills.
“Mayors Screech in View Royal and Ranns in Metchosin have been great but nothing could be found that works for us. People have told us to talk to farmers to use their fields. But that simply wouldn’t work for many reasons. We need a municipal-level entity to step forward.”
But none has. So a sport with a grand local legacy will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and be without an outdoor home after Sept. 1.
“It’s been a great run. It will be such a sad loss,” said Wills.
— With files from Lindsay Kines, Times Colonist