How well do we know our neighbouring municipality, Saanich? Not very well, it turns out. Although the Saanich Centennial Trails and the Seaside Touring Route are regular rides for us, we discover a lot of new territory in our quest to visit all 163 Saanich parks by bicycle.
Project scope and rules
“We want to see you on your bike,” says the Saanich municipal website. They mean it, too. To get you rolling, Saanich has a series of well-signed, safe, scenic trails: Blenkinsop Greenway, Interurban Rail Trail, San Juan Greenway, Glendale Trail, Colquitz River Trail, Royal Oak Trail.
Our park project, phase II is not all about the bike, however. Because Saanich is big — five times the size of Victoria — we use our bikes to travel from park to park. There’s a lot of back-tracking and stop-and-go, as we consult the map and dismount to explore each park. Project rules, strictly enforced by our research officer (Cathy), require a purposeful visit to each park, and this takes time. A distance that can be cycled in two hours non-stop now takes five or six. The clip-in shoes and spandex set, looking for a steady, workout-paced ride, will not enjoy this project.
The Parks & Trails map lists 157 parks in Saanich. Clicking through the alphabet under “Find a Park” adds six to the list, giving us a denominator of 163 parks. There are more than 170 parks (including natural state and undeveloped park lands), according to the Saanich website, so we acknowledge that our denominator may not be complete. (For links to these references, see More Info, below)
Saanich has a wide variety of rural and urban landscapes and twelve neighbourhoods. Marine shoreline, rocky outcrops, freshwater lakes, forest, farmland, palatial homes, modest bedroom communities, rough-and-tough areas, big community parks, pint-sized neighbourhood parks, undeveloped parks with little or no public access — Saanich has it all.
Many parks are well-known to us. There’s Copley, where our grandson played football. Panama Flats, where in the winter we hope it’s not flooded. Gorge Waterway, where we learned to paddle a canoe. A whooping 104 parks — two-thirds of them — we see for the first time.
Notable new-to-us parks
Outerbridge Park, adjacent to 1181 Royal Oak Drive. Designed as a bird and nature sanctuary, some areas of this property are planted with ornamental plants, while others have been left in a natural state. Trails, ponds, and bridges add interest to this oasis. “You should see it in the summer,” says a local who regularly strolls this treasure of a park. We’ll come back!
Glencoe Cove-Kwatsech Park in Gordon Head. This park has trails along rocky outcrops facing Haro Strait, interpretive signs, and beach access. Note the cycling restrictions: trails are pedestrian-only. Gordon Head neighbourhood has a lot of parks — twenty-seven — so we will mention a few other favourites: Arbutus Cove with its sheltered sandy beach, Hollydene with views and a beach, and the series of parks on the long linear Feltham Trail (Bow, Brodick, and Feltham Parks).
Phyllis Park, off Arbutus Road in Ten Mile Point, a wooded peninsula just north of Cadboro Bay. Steps lead to a cluster of Garry oak and arbutus trees and a lookout deck with a stunning view of Mount Baker. The neighbourhood is as equally stunning — an enclave of large, lavish homes.
Sea Ridge Park in Cordova Bay and Jennifer Park in Quadra. Each of these has a tiny trail to a viewpoint surrounded by homes. We enjoyed the views – and the orienteering challenge of locating these two parks.
South Valley Park in the Carey neighbourhood. Like ducks? This long linear park winds through a residential neighbourhood. Duck ponds, native plants, and woods surround the paved pathway that begins at Hatfield Road and connects to South Valley Drive.
Strawberry Knoll in Rural Saanich. A mix of trees, open green space, and a rustic trail. Surprise! A lake that we had never seen before.
Mount Douglas, the largest and most magnificent of the Saanich parks. Favourite features: the extensive and lush trail system, rocky outcrops, panoramic views from the summit, and wildflowers in the spring. Cycling the steep park road to the summit requires strong legs — or one notch of power from an e-bike battery. No, kids and grandkids, this park is not named after your dad/grandpa, Doug. Governor James Douglas established the park in 1858.
Cadboro-Gyro, a large waterfront park with a collection of sea life sculptures. This popular park is our regular lunch stop when cycling the Seaside Touring Route. Aren’t we lucky? Our favourite bench is almost always available.
Blenkinsop Lake, viewed from a bridge on the Lochside Trail. Old Farmer Roy always makes us smile — or stop for a selfie. This life-sized sculpture of Roy Hawes, a long-time farmer, is a tribute to early settlers of Blenkinsop Valley.
Harvest Lane, a little neighbourhood park on the San Juan Greenway. It always seems to be sunny here, and the cheerful playground equipment is well-used.
Gore-Peace Memorial in the Shelbourne commercial district. This small park gets our vote for most-improved park. Recent enhancements include a decorative pathway, a fountain and seating area, and additional trees. It’s a place to rest and to contemplate the losses and lessons of World War I.
Saanich people are proud of their neighbourhood parks, friendly to visitors, and interested in our project.
“Can I help you?” we hear a lot, when people see us puzzling over the map. “High five — what a great winter idea — way cheaper than the cruise my wife wants to take,” says another. Other things we hear:
“Uh… it’s not really a park, but I saw someone bushwhacking in there once,” says a resident on Wray Avenue, where we are searching for Tuscan Park, which the website says is located at 441 Wray. We never did find the entrance, if there is one.
“We charge for photos,” says Bill at Cordova Bay Park. Doug pulls out his wallet, and they share a laugh. Bill is ninety-one years old, and he knows this park — and the sixty-nine stairs up and down to his house.
For the Parks & Trails map and numbered list of 157 parks in Saanich, click here.
For a description of each park’s location, size, and amenities, visit “Find a Park”.
Saanich offers a series of Gentle Walks and Sunday Walks through various parks and trails.
We are not the only ones to tour every park in Saanich. Paul Butterfield, a transportation technician with the district of Saanich, completed his visits to every park in 2012. Each park is described in his comprehensive blog, Hike Every Park.