Darrell Wick

Mount Doug park still holds a few mysteries

District of Saanich celebrates 20 years overseeing the park

To the average park visitor, hikes through Mount Doug offer winding trails, scenic views and beach access,188-hectares of solace within Saanich.

For members of the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society, an afternoon walk also offers clues to the park’s storied past – a past highlighted this week on the 20th anniversary of its transfer from the province to Saanich.

Darrell Wick, president of Friends of Mount Doug, briskly climbs toward the summit of the mountain. To his left, a park volunteer pulls invasive species – broom, garlic mustard – to his right, a steep slope still bears the scars of motorcycle climbs from the 1960s.

And further along his walk: the mouth of one of two of the mountain’s abandoned mine shafts, built circa 1870 when prospectors found gold flakes and quartz. Wick doesn’t hesitate to climb right into the mouth of the cave, which could easily go unnoticed.

While he can’t recommend the adventurous activity, he happily answers questions from curious passersby, acknowledging with a chuckle that the level of spiders within the shaft is low.

At the summit, more hints at the park’s mysterious past easily fly under the radar. Two large cement blocks of unknown origin are now covered over in moss. Another question mark emerges: the remnants of bases for wood power poles.

“Obviously there was something up here, we just don’t know what,” Wick said. “We think it might have been some sort of lookout during the war. We’re really curious ourselves.”

A man-made pond near the summit appears to be the last of the enigmas atop the mountain. Some of Mount Doug’s known history still might come as a surprise to visitors.

The top parking lot sits on a sunken two-storey building that houses equipment for the nearby transmission tower. The existence of the building easily goes unnoticed by most – one of the two initial triumphs for Wick, who, along with a group of advocates, rallied to see the equipment moved from a location planned on the southeast summit.

“We thought, ‘My goodness, that’s going to destroy the ambiance of Mount Doug. You’ll see it from everywhere.’”

The other key controversy from which the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society was born in 1989 during the 100th anniversary of the park: their successful bid to stop the extension of Shelbourne Street, four lanes of roadway, through the park.

Though the park had been previously owned and operated by the City of Victoria, by 1989 it fell under jurisdiction of the province. On Nov. 22, 1992, B.C. officially transferred the title to Saanich and the district installed a copper charter at the summit.

Since 1992, Saanich has added more than 21 hectares to the park, including the lands around Little Mount Douglas within the park boundary.

“It’s quite satisfying work to see the positive outcomes and working with Saanich is quite positive,” said Wick, one of four founding members of the society still advocating for the preservation of the urban forest. “We get a lot of support from Saanich parks, the public and the press.”

On Thursday, Nov. 22, the society and the district will host a park rededication ceremony and unveil a second charter and several enhancement projects.

“It’s been a quiet success story,” said Mayor Frank Leonard. “We still have some times when the dialogue is tested because the Friends (of Mount Doug) are very good advocates. It’s a very healthy dialogue.”

Balancing the desire to preserve the land in its natural state with enjoyment of increased visitors – a daily rush of whom now come to the park before noon while the summit road (Churchill Road) is closed to vehicle traffic – is the biggest, and unrelenting challenge for the society, even after 20 years of successes.

Rebuilding salmon beds in Douglas Creek, monitoring the deterioration of Cordova Bay Road along eroding cliffs, tree planting and keeping up with the spread of invasive species are ongoing issues, Wick said.

“It’s a fantastic park and the popularity in the last 10 years has gone up exponentially,” he added. “The challenge is to preserve it as a natural park, but to have many, many visitors. It’s a very serious ongoing challenge.”

The Mount Doug park 20th anniversary ceremony is Nov. 22, 10 a.m. at the front gate of Churchill Drive.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Snippets of Mount Douglas Park history

The forest was the source of the cedar pickets used to construct Fort Victoria in 1843.

-Originally known as “Hill of Cedars” to the Songhees First Nation and later as Hyde park. for a short time in the 1850s

-Established as a government reserve in 1858 and named after first Governor, Sir James Douglas.

-In the early 1900s, the Royal Oak Station of the V&S Railway brought park visitors about three kilometres from the park. In 1915 a bus route through the park connected Royal Oak with Gordon Head.

-A restaurant operated by George and Elizabeth Libby, and a tea room operated by Maude Hunter, drew visitors from the 1920s to the 1950s.

 

Just Posted

Sidney BIA says sad goodbye to President and Executive Director

Susan Simosko and Donna Petrie leave, board members fill new positions

Hefty Peninsula Co-op donation brightens Mount Newton Centre Society’s 40th anniversary

Peninsula residents can borrow items from the centre’s medical ‘loan cupboard’ for up to three months

Downtown Victoria businesses cite parking issues as top challenge

A report put forward by the Downtown Victoria Business Association asked owners for input

Victoria woman in L.A. hospital after she was run over twice

Lynn Phillips has suffered from multiple broken bones and internal bleeding

Victoria teen killed by falling tree, remembered as hero

Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling towards him and his friends

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Conservation officers trapped the cubs and transported them to a wildlife sanctuary

Heroism medal for B.C. woman who tried to save wheelchair-bound man stuck on rail tracks

Julie Callaghan awarded Carnegie Medal from U.S.-based foundation for ‘extraordinary heroism’

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

B.C. students’ camping trip goes ahead despite tents getting stolen

Nanaimo businesses, school staff and parents ensure trip goes on

Only legal pot shop between Vancouver and Kamloops now open

Private cannabis store on Skwah land in Chilliwack is first B.C. licensee to be Indigenous owned

B.C. judge defies lawyers and adds six months to man’s sex assault sentence

‘I find the joint submission is contrary to the public interest and I’m rejecting it’

Man presumed dead after boat capsizes in Columbia River

Search and rescue efforts recovered a life jacket

Crews fight wildfire along Sea-to-Sky Highway

A cause has not been determined, although a downed power line is suspected

Most Read