As Oak Bay’s new manager of parks services, Chris Hyde-Lay couldn’t be happier to be returning to his roots.
Hyde-Lay, 52, was first hired in Oak Bay as a horticulturist in 1988. He worked in the municipality for about 16 years before a five-year stint at Bartlett Tree Experts.
The Saanich resident was also the assistant supervisor of arboriculture for the City of Victoria from 2008 to 2011.
“I’m really happy to be back,” Hyde-Lay says. “Oak Bay has so much to offer and I just want to be a steward to keep it looking as good as we possibly can.”
According to Hyde-Lay, two things brought him back to Oak Bay – the people and the environment.
He’s always enjoyed meeting people, he says, and he finds the residents of Oak Bay friendly, helpful and interesting.
Hyde-Lay also likes the fact that Oak Bay is near the water and has a great urban forest.
Born and raised in Shawnigan Lake, Hyde-Lay’s love of gardening blossomed while working at a nursery near Duncan.
He was at Dinter Nursery for about eight years and did an apprenticeship with owner Bernie Dinter before starting as a horticulturist in Oak Bay.
Since taking over from long-time parks services manager Lorne Middleton, who retired in late February, Hyde-Lay says he’s been getting his feet on the ground.
“(I’m) just seeing how everything works, meeting new people, meeting the residents, familiarizing myself with everything.”
His main focus has been keeping his desktop clear, he says with a laugh; responding to resident inquiries, and “keeping things rolling along.”
He’s also working towards developing new programs for Oak Bay and continuing to maintain the municipality’s green spaces and parks buildings.
“(I look forward to) keeping and improving the natural beauty of the municipality,” he says.
“One of the things that we do want to do though, is certainly maintain or increase the urban forest canopy cover, that’s one of the goals.”
Meeting that goal would involve keeping track of the plants and trees being removed and what gets planted in place, he explains.
When not walking his dog, raising his teenage son or tending to his rhododendrons, Hyde-Lay spends his time reading autobiographies, and occasionally kayaking.
He used to be an active white water kayaker and squash player, he says.
“I’ve always preferred to be outside than inside, even though this is a bit of an inside job,” he says.