The City of Victoria has seventy-five municipal parks, and we decide to visit every one of them, on foot, from our home in Victoria West. Twenty of the parks are new to us, although we have called Victoria home for thirty-five years. A Sleeping Lady, happy kids on mossy rocks, and a classic poem are highlights of this low-cost, local expedition.
Goal-oriented people will understand the logic that led to our park project:
While perusing the City of Victoria website for cycling updates, Cathy notices a list and map of the seventy-five city-owned parks. But have we visited all of them?
Next she sees that Victoria has a target for access to parks: 99 per cent of Victorians will have a park or open space with 400 metres of home by 2041. Why 400 metres? Because 400 metres is “generally accepted as the distance that people will walk to a destination.” We are willing to walk farther than that!
Let’s challenge ourselves to walk from home to each of the seventy-five parks, before Christmas. Doug is a live-for-today person, but with the promise of coffee-shop stops he accepts this walking challenge — and his role as project photographer.
Here are a few things we learned while walking:
- It’s only five kilometres, an hour’s walk, to Gonzales, the furthest park from our home in Victoria West. After walking to all seventy-five parks, Victoria seems smaller and more compact.
- Twenty parks are newly-noticed, even though we have lived in Victoria for thirty-five years. We may have driven or ridden by some of these new-to-us parks, but we never stopped to appreciate them. An example is Moss Rocks Park, where a moderate climb from May Street brings us to a view of Clover Point and the Olympic Mountains – and some happy preschoolers jumping on the natural rocky area.
- How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the air so blue? The words to this Robert Louis Stevenson poem are painted on the steps to Summit Park, perched on a hilltop in Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood. Who can forget the rhythm and the joy of reciting this poem while pushing their children back and forth back and forth on a swing?
- Walking is a great way to appreciate the character of a neighbourhood. The city of Victoria is divided into fourteen neighbourhoods (or eleven or thirteen, depending on the reference). Per capita, James Bay, Hillside/Quadra, Fairfield, and Victoria West have the most municipal park land. Creating new parks in less-well-served neighbourhoods will be a challenge as urban density and population increase.
- Oaklands is not the only neighbourhood to have Garry Oaks.
- Our favourite parks? Beacon Hill and the shoreline parks, of course, because these are Victoria’s flagship parks and greenways. We are also drawn to the little neighbourhood parks with playground equipment, especially if youngsters are present.
- Walking provides time to reflect on our two years of car-free life. How’s it going? It’s been easy, actually, and that’s because of our location. We overlook two parks, the Galloping Goose Trail, and a bus stop. There’s a grocery store across the street, it’s a twenty-minute walk to the library, and kind neighbours provide a shuttle to the Elk Lake walking group. Odometers on our bikes: 7,500 kilometres.
What should we tackle next? In addition to parks, Victoria has Open Spaces, and there are our neighbouring municipalities of Esquimalt, Oak Bay, and Saanich parks. Esquimalt and Oak Bay are smaller than Victoria, but Saanich has more than 170 parks. That could keep us busy until spring, when travel season begins. Ha Ha