Community

Saanich residents revive Falaise Park with community party

Franca LaBella of the Falaise Community Association and Clyde Smith, a lifetime Falaise resident, stand in Saanich
Franca LaBella of the Falaise Community Association and Clyde Smith, a lifetime Falaise resident, stand in Saanich's Falaise Park, where two signs are being installed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battle of Falaise, France, the park's namesake. LaBella and the association are re-igniting the once flourishing community of Falaise, beginning with a celebration of food and music on Saturday.
— image credit: Travis Paterson/News staff

Clyde Smith stands in Falaise Park and recalls the memories of his childhood.

“Right over there is the Hickman house, it used to have a vacant lot beside it where we burned Halloween bonfires. There was a costume parade and they’d open the garage door and serve hot chocolate and coffee for everyone. That’s how it was,” he says.

Over time, Saanich’s Falaise community has shrunk as the community’s southerly border drifted northwards. The horses once stabled along Royal Oak Drive were replaced with Thrifty’s and the Canadian Tire.

The Falaise neighbourhood is now nestled between Patricia Bay Highway to the west, the Royal Oak Burial Park to the north, Broadmead to the east and Rithet’s Bog to the South.

But for the first time in a long while, a community resurgence is happening at Falaise Park.

This Saturday, from 2 to 4 p.m., the group gathers to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Falaise Gap in Northern France.

Saanich is installing a pair of signs, one on the victory, which involved many Canadians and was a key breakthrough in the Battle of Normandy. The other sign tells the story of families settling in the “veterans’ subdivision of Falaise.”

It’s part of an initiative by the Falaise Community Association, Saanich’s smallest community association and the second oldest.

“This was once a thriving community with a lot of activities that eventually disappeared,” said Franca LaBella, president of the Falaise Community Association.

LaBella has researched the neighbourhood and its namesake, Falaise, France. He’s in touch with members of the original families, including Smith and 93-year-old Lenore Ehmkee, who’s husband Joe was wounded in the Battle of Falaise before moving to Saanich.

Smith has been a lifelong Falaise resident and was part of the original wave of veterans’ families to take up residence there. He remembers his father, Ian Smith, building their house in the 1950s after acquiring the property through Saanich and the Veterans’ Land Act.

“The 10-year forgiveness was meant to create communities like this one, to encourage putting down roots,” LaBella said.

The Saturday event will feature a bugler from the Naden Band, a bagpipe, and hot dogs and snacks from Thrifty’s, at Falaise Park, located on Falaise Crescent.

reporter@saanichnews.com

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