Ray Travers, chair of the Memorial Avenue Committee, stands near the memorial trees on Shelbourne Street commemorating Canadian war deaths during the First World War. His group wants to turn the street into a larger commemorative space that would add more memorial trees to the street.                                Black Press File

Ray Travers, chair of the Memorial Avenue Committee, stands near the memorial trees on Shelbourne Street commemorating Canadian war deaths during the First World War. His group wants to turn the street into a larger commemorative space that would add more memorial trees to the street. Black Press File

Saanich moves ahead with Shelbourne war memorial plans

Local group wants to complete work that started nearly a century ago

Plans to transform Shelbourne Street into a commemorative space in time for the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War are gaining momentum.

Council Monday unanimously tasked staff to review plans by the Memorial Avenue Committee, a group of local volunteers, who want to complete work that nearly began a century ago, when Shelbourne Street became Canada’s first Road of Remembrance in Oct. 2, 1921.

These roads commemorated Canadian war deaths during the First World War by planting trees along major suburban roads like Shelbourne Street, and some 5,000 people, including then-premier John Oliver and Lieutenant-Governor Walter Nichol, attended the dedication, which also commemorated British Columbians, who died in Boer War (1899-1902).

Saanich built Shelbourne Street in 1916 as a major north-south road from Mount Douglas Park to Victoria. Plans to plant memorial trees on both sides of Shelbourne Street to honour British Columbian war deaths started around the same time. Proponents wanted to plant one tree for each killed soldier, a goal eventually rendered unfeasible by the number of British Columbian soldiers (6,000) killed.

Available space permitted 800 trees, and a total of 600 trees eventually appeared, running from Mount Douglas Park to Cedar Hill Cross Road in Saanich, and from Hillside to Bay Street in Victoria. Of those, 500 trees stood in Saanich.

However plans to plant trees along Shelbourne from Cedar Hill Cross Road to North Dairy never materialized, and as urban development intensified during the 1960s, Saanich cut down some 300 trees from Cedar Hill Cross Road to Torquay to widen Shelbourne to four from two lanes.

Saanich also contemplated but never completed re-naming Shelbourne Street to Memorial Avenue.

Plans proposed by the Memorial Avenue Committee call on Saanich to plant new London Plane deciduous trees along Shelbourne Street running from Pear Street to North Dairy, as part of the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan. The plan also calls on Saanich install interpretive panels in prominent locations along Shelbourne Street and include the phrase ‘Memorial Avenue’ in Shelbourne Street signage.

Council’s decision to send these plans to staff came after a presentation from Ray Travers, the committee’s chair.

“I think it will be a wonderful legacy to leave for future generations,” said Travers, who pegged the total budget of the plan at $139,000.

He said the project would attract tourist, raise property values, and increase historical awareness. Travers said it would remind people of the “enormous sacrifice” that the First World War demanded. Some 600 soldiers from the Greater Victoria area died.

Councillors praised the initiative, but also pumped the breaks.

“It really helps us understand our history and background,” said Coun. Karen Harper. But she — like others — also said that she looks forward to seeing the final details.

Coun. Colin Plant said it would be “premature” for Saanich to support this plan beyond “in principle” without having all of the facts. “I would like to know exactly what it costs,” he said.

Coun. Susan Brice said this project might unfold over multiple years.

Saanich’s decision to examine these plans came after the District had completed improvement to the Gore-Peace Memorial Park.

Dedicated in July 1919, the location hosted Remembrance Day services until about 1960. Three years earlier, Saanich placed a peace memorial made out of granite in the park. In 1970, it moved to Saanich Municipal Hall, the current location of Remembrance Day services.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ownership of SISȻENEM — also known as Halibut Island located east off Sidney Island — has transferred to W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council after The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC) had purchased the island for $1.55 million. (The Land Conservancy/Submitted)
SISȻENEM (Halibut Island) transfers to W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council under historic agreement

The Land Conservancy purchased the 9.67-acre island for $1.55 million with help from unnamed donor

Shannon Davis, manager at Sidney’s Star Cinema, holds up the largest available bag of popcorn available for sale at the theatre. It also also sells four smaller sizes in generating revenue following its closure last fall because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney theatre fills bottom line with popcorn sales

Theatre applying to return to doing our household-only private rentals

Landis Carmichael is the Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as the Emergency Services Award winner. (Photo courtesy Landis Carmichael)
29-year-old firefighter has spent almost half his life with Langford department

Landis Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Emergency Services Award

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday morning due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferry sailing cancelled due to high winds, sea state

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A kid in elementary school wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Metro Creative)
Union asks why an elementary school mask rule wouldn’t work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

B.C. education minister announced expansion of mask-wearing rules in middle, high school but not elementary students

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo school district chosen as Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Ella Donovan with mom Tina outside Fuller Lake Arena before heading onto the ice for practice. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Young Ladysmith skater watches and waits in battle against cancer

Ella Donovan’s tumour began a tumultuous time, but community support eased the burden

Most Read