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Residents call for 5 actions on Oak Bay segment of Bowker Creek

Council expects a peek at district plan for creek ahead of spring budget talks
Oak Bay parks crew members clear a section of creekside vegetation to allow for repairs where the banks of Bowker Creek collapsed March 24, 2022. (Black Press Media file photo)

Council will peruse municipal plans for work on Bowker Creek near the Oak Bay Recreation Centre ahead of spring budget talks after residents came armed with information gathered during a pair of ice cream socials.

Jane Evans was among those who came away from the Coolkit program sessions last spring a climate champion. The Coolkit program is a joint initiative with the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning at the University of British Columbia that aims to educate residents about reducing their carbon footprint with a focus on impacting climate change in an active way. The sessions offered participants a do-it-yourself toolkit for getting neighbours involved in the conversation about climate change.

Evans immediately launched into action.

READ ALSO: Coolkit program inspires Oak Bay ‘hood to host ice cream social

Evans gathered a group, including the Friends of Bowker Creek Society, to craft an ice cream social to look at elements in their neighbourhood that cause and create impacts on climate change. The first event carved out key observations, such as the impervious nature of creek-adjacent parking lots and a lack of tree cover.

Residents referenced the creek shore slump in March 2022, when a segment adjacent to the recreation centre parking lot slid toward the waterway.

They also noted the section, identified as Reach 5 in the Bowker Creek Blueprint – a 100-year plan developed through the Capital Regional District – shows potential for future flooding.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay prepares to reinforce failed Bowker Creek bank

The social sussed out five actions residents feel should be done on the block. They’d like to see restoration of the creek to widen the channel, increasing flow capacity, improving stormwater management and restoration of the diverse ecosystem habitat for salmon, songbirds and pollinators.

Other actions include establishing a continuous forest canopy for summer shade and cooling; increasing an active transportation greenway with a pedestrian/bike path that connects biodiversity while providing safe and accessible access; retaining and detaining water to infiltrate the soil by eliminating storm drains and surface flow directly to the creek through changes to infrastructure with permeable paving and rain gardens; and include community amenity and place-making features, connecting to the recreation centre as a people place and community asset.

They referenced projects in the mid-2010s behind nearby Oak Bay High which came together thanks to collaborative work with many partners and myriad funding sources.

What was a concrete ditch became a meandering stream with native plantings, an outdoor classroom and pathway connecting areas of the community. Volunteers continue to care for the site, from water testing to invasive species removal and tending to the plants as needed.

READ ALSO: Ten years in, Greater Victoria’s 100-year Bowker Creek blueprint gets a boost

The main channel of Bowker Creek flows southeast from headwaters at the University of Victoria through the Shelbourne valley and enters the sea near the Glenlyon Norfolk junior school on Beach Drive.

Knowing there are complexities and various municipal departments and processes involved, Coun. Andrew Appleton asked how council might receive an update on the district strategy for the waterway.

While it’s likely too late, with many reports on the go, to get a report back before the priorities planning session, staff suggested it could get a project backgrounder in front of council ahead of budget discussions in March.


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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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