EDITORIAL: Panama Flats purchase an opportunity

Greater Victoria likes to pride itself on the forward thinking that has preserved so many natural areas for public use.

Last week, Saanich added to the inventory by purchasing Panama Flats, a green belt located between Carey and Interurban roads.

The 25-hectare (62 acre) property is an oasis amidst the surrounding suburbia. For many drivers catching their first glimpse of the flats in the winter, the flood-lands can resemble a secret lake tucked between two high-traffic roads.

Throughout the year, Panama Flats is home to countless species of birds and other wildlife. Large mammals including bears and cougars have also been spotted in the area.

And for many decades, the flats were considered the next best thing to a public park. Previous owners farmed the land the best they could, without really raising the ire of those who live nearby. In the days when winter temperatures plumeted, youth and families from around the region would converge for recreational skating and shinny hockey games.

Public sentiment about the property changed drastically a few years ago, when heavy equipment was brought in to try and re-focus agricultural development. Saanich voiced concern over the ramifications to the adjacent Colquitz River. The prospect of a drawn-out legal battle didn’t appeal to anyone.

In the end, Saanich stepped up and bought the property to have better control over how the floodplain is managed. The cost: $910,000 in cash and two parcels of developable land worth another $1.5 million.

It will take months before Panama Flats is opened to the public as a combination of agricultural use and park land. The benefits will be felt for generations.