From the Oak Bay Marina 1991 proposal, a seawalk and public fishing pier that would extend over the breakwater which is currently exposed riprap. (Oak Bay Archives)

From the Oak Bay Marina 1991 proposal, a seawalk and public fishing pier that would extend over the breakwater which is currently exposed riprap. (Oak Bay Archives)

Oak Bay seeks proposals for marina use

A three-part look at the history of Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head

This is the first segment in a three-part series on the Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head

Imagine a 150-foot long boardwalk along the Turkey Head breakwater with a large pier at the end where people could fish from and throw crab traps. It would be something like the Sidney pier.

That was one of the features in a 1991 proposal from Bob Wright’s Oak Bay Marine Group that won the right to lease the land, foreshore and water that is known as Oak Bay Marina. It was Wright who took over the old fishing lodge in the late 1950s and turned it into what it is today.

The lease for the Oak Bay Marina and parking lot known as Turkey Head ends on Dec. 29, 2022. On Sept. 14, Oak Bay council approved sending the request for proposals to the public. RFP responses are due Nov. 30 and the new lease will run 2023 to 2052.

Satellite photo of Oak Bay Marina in 2020. The land and water lease for the marina come up Dec. 29, 2022. (Google Earth Image)

In anticipation of that, the Oak Bay News has undertaken a three-part series that revisits the origin and history of the marina and Turkey Head, what’s there now, and what members of the community wish to see there.

That boardwalk never happened, but it almost did, recalls Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, who had been Oak Bay mayor just previous to the proposal.

“I thought the pier would have been a good recreational addition for residents,” Brice recalled recently, adding she lobbied Wright to put it in his proposal and the District of Oak Bay to include it. “Even though we’re next to the water, and surrounded by it, people are still limited by opportunities. There’s people who fish off the golf course, there’s people who would use it.”

An illustration of Turkey Head upgrades in the 1991 Oak Bay Marina proposal for the lease renewal. (Oak Bay Archives)

Brice admitted the big winds that frequent that channel would be a challenge. Perhaps that’s why it never materialized. Nonetheless, the Oak Bay Marine Group’s proposal was accepted back then, dated Jan. 1, 1993.

READ MORE: A vision for Turkey Head

At the time, the aquatic portion was signed off by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, which is now the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Oak Bay leases the land which houses dozens of ‘fingers’ and hundreds of slips. Vis it the 36-page lease here.

It’s expected that the Oak Bay Marine Group will submit a new proposal but the outfit can not speak during the RFP process said their chief operating officer Brook Castelsky.

This past fall a group of architecture students from Clemson University flew to Victoria to share their proposals on how to better use the ample parking space of Turkey Head. Their presentations were shared with a group of architects and placemaking advocates in a charette (a relaxed group setting which includes a conversational question-and-answer discussion period).

Key to the students’ presentations was considering things like the housing crisis and the frequent users of the parking lot, which includes local film crews.

The local film ‘circus,’ the term for their trucks and trailers, was the biggest user of the Oak Bay Marina parking lot in 2019. Movie crews used the space for 28 days in 2019. At $500 per day, it raised a total of $14,000 that supports the District of Oak Bay’s Arts and Culture programs and events, said Steve Meikle, manager of Oak Bay’s Recreation and Cultural Services.

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Typical pre-COVID stays for the film crews were three to eight days, Meikle added.

The Clemson students designed functional creations, said Kristina Leach, an Oak Bay resident on the Community Association of Oak Bay board. Leach has a PhD in architectural history and is an affiliated faculty fellow with the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma. Students considered factors such as the frequent walkers to Turkey Head, the importance of parking, and many assumed a redevelopment there could further accommodate the film circus while enhancing the lot.

While the Turkey Head space is not part of the land and foreshore leased to Oak Bay Marina, the RFP combines the two, which could open part of Turkey Head to a use beyond that of car parking. In 2018, the Community Association of Oak Bay with the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network held a charette at Turkey Head. They gathered ideas, including public feedback throughout the 2017 Oak Bay Night Markets.

Look for Part 2, a history of Oak Bay Marina, next week.

reporter@oakbaynews.com