Oak Bay’s seafront needs to be more savvy, says Jacques Sirois.
The longtime Oak Bay resident wants to spur discussion on how to reinvigorate infrastructure and share stories about what he calls – in flawless French – “Canada’s Cote D’Azur.”
“I’m an ocean lover, a bird lover and a heritage fan,” he says. “We have a lot of interesting natural and cultural heritage in Oak Bay.”
Sirois sees it as taken for granted, saying for example, that people don’t realize Oak Bay is part of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary established in the 1920s.
“There was a need to rein in the hunting,” Sirois says. “The city grew and industry grew … everybody forgot about this bird sanctuary.”
He wants to resurrect the sanctuary, just one of the “unknown stories” of local shorelines that should be shared through signage.
“We need an Oak Bay seafront initiative that will unfold in the next decade. We have to be thoughtful and savvy,” Sirois says.
“We have the best marine environment in urban Canada. We’ve got an incredible package for a city.”
Another example Sirois cites is the Trial Islands ecological reserve that also boasts a federally designated heritage lighthouse.
“People are vaguely aware of it but we are not celebrating it,” Sirois says.
He also cites the tales of Lekwungen people, and the region’s once abundant herring population.
“Hopefully this conversation would lead to a region-wide herring recovery program,” he says.
Signage would be a start, but he sees the infrastructure, from steps to lack of public washrooms, as out of date.
“We could start with Mc Neill Bay. We have to redesign the infrastructure on the seafront,” he says, adding it would require professional design, with the municipality taking the lead.
“I realize we are a small municipality but at least we have to start talking about it.”
One tangible, if nostalgic, start would be rebuilding an Oak Bay Boathouse similar to what the Oak Bay Marina replaced in the 1960s.
While it needed to come down, he admits, a building inspired by the former landmark could serve as a nature house, or tourist centre, to start sharing the stories.
“We need to rebuild. It was the most-loved building in our history. It was charismatic and interesting,” Sirois says. “It would be a very tangible project that could be a launching pad for a seafront plan.”