Soil removed during construction of the McKenzie Interchange has been repurposed into a berm with a walking path along the side of the highway. (Photo courtesy Colin Plant)

Excess soil from McKenzie interchange repurposed into berm, walking path

Landscaping, trees to be added this fall, ministry says

Saanich residents looking for a new walking route can follow Coun. Colin Plant’s lead and check out the berm beside the Trans Canada Highway in Cuthbert Holmes Park.

South Island residents travelling through the nearly completed McKenzie Interchange may have noticed a large mound of soil taking shape along the side of the highway.

Rather than shipping excess dirt away from the construction site, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) opted to form a large, flat-topped hill – or berm as a more “cost-effective” option.

MoTI said the berm acts as a visual barrier for Cuthbert Holmes Park and cuts down highway noise while providing a landscaped backdrop for residents.

Plant agreed, the mound acts as a natural buffer and provides park-users with a new walking path. He already took a spin up the berm while out on a bike ride and noted that while some construction vehicles are still on-site, the hill “was in good enough condition to ride up.”

“I think people may enjoy the little walk up and down the berm to the top. Certainly this project has had its fair share of hiccups, but I think this one component may end up being quite lovely,” Plant said.

While the berm – which has a continuous path going up each side – currently has very little greenery, the District of Saanich has an agreement with the ministry for landscaping to be added. The ministry said the Friends of Cuthbert Holmes Park and Saanich Parks, Recreation and Community Services were involved in developing the landscaping plan that includes native trees and a variety of other plantings to “enhance” the nearby park.

On the south side of the hill below the pathway, crews dug and placed the soil in a method that the ministry called “rough and loose – a treatment known to provide ideal conditions for natural revegetation.” On the upper part, a selection of native tree species will be planted. The ministry said landscaping is expected to be completed in the fall.

Plant said while the berm cannot fully replace the parkland lost to the interchange, the newly landscaped berm and walking path will be “a positive for the community.”

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Soil removed during construction of the McKenzie Interchange has been repurposed into a berm with a walking path along the side of the highway. (Photo courtesy Colin Plant)

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