Users of a popular ocean beach in North Saanich are up in arms about what they see as irreparable changes to the spot, which is being used to access a private property for a retaining wall project.
Located steps away from a pathway to Saanich Inlet from the foot of Norris Road off Madrona Drive, the “Norris Beach” area has seen a temporary gravel road built on it near the high tide mark to allow equipment to access the site. District of North Saanich staff confirmed the beach access was temporarily closed on Thursday (July 28) to allow equipment in and out.
A district planning staffer said residents have voiced concerns to the municipality almost since the work began at the rear of 10664 Madrona Dr., a large triangular property that is very narrow at the street and very wide at the beachfront. More recently, concerned residents have reached out to Black Press Media.
Dave Spencer forwarded photos he took of the site during a recent visit, and did not mince words.
“Neighbours and beach lovers are angry,” he wrote. “Even if the proper permits are in place, it is unlikely this favourite beach will ever be the same.”
District planner Serena Klaver, who has been to the site, said professionals connected to the project, including biologists, arborists and geotechnical specialists, are aware of the public concerns around the state of the beach.
According to the publicly available development permit – issued in 2021 – the work is being done to forestall “excessive erosion at the base of the (steep) slope at the shoreline,” and will see a concrete lock-block seawall built just behind the natural boundary, or high tide mark. The south end is designed to meet up with the existing seawall leading to the beach access and a pathway leading down to the beach from the back yard is part of the plan. The project is projected to be completed in six weeks.
The permit contains detailed instructions from an environmental consultant for maintaining ecological integrity and protecting environmental features during and after construction. Recommendations for post-construction renewal of the site call for replanting native vegetation in disturbed construction areas, including replacing removed trees on a one-for-one basis.
While it will take time to see what post-construction restoration of the beach will look like, locals are already lamenting the loss of a favoured spot.
After pointing out that people’s beef is not with the homeowner but with a process that allows such changes to public places, one neighbour said this “little jewel” of a beach is frequented by locals and visitors alike. She recalled a recent conversation there with an older man who spends two months each year in Greater Victoria and chooses to swim from Norris Beach despite living out of the area.
“He was practically crying when he saw the destruction and kept asking me why anyone would do this,” she wrote. “We know it will never be the same again. Such a shame.”
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