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Beacon Hill Park


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#1 Icebergalley

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 10:02 AM

Was surprised that there was no specific thread about Beacon Hill Park... other than responses to current park usage issues... car picnics etc..

Today's Globe has an interesting and friendly article about Beacon Hill Park and one of the people who has a particular interest in it's history...

Also.. a link to a her work as a park historian's ...

http://www.islandnet...lpark/index.htm

NATURE

Beacon Hill Park calls out to passionate nature lover
One woman fights to save verdant gem, TOM HAWTHORN writes
TOM HAWTHORN

Special to The Globe and Mail

VICTORIA -- A visit to Beacon Hill Park is a naturalist's delight. You can spot a Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii), a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) or even a great blue heron (Ardea herodias).

On most days, a careful observer can also locate the camera-wielding advocate (Janis Ringuette), known as a diligent gatherer of facts and capable of rhetorical flight. Readily identifiable by silver plumage and ever-present binoculars, this quick-witted creature has a call that sounds much like a hearty laugh. Genus Janis is so rare as to be unique.

She has become the park's unofficial historian, maintaining a website rich in anecdote about a gathering place for generations of Victoria residents. Over the years, the park has captured the imagination of more than just nature lovers. Ms. Ringuette can tell you all about the plans for a tribute to the glories of ancient Greece to have been built on the crest of the hill that gives the park its name. She can also leave you in stitches with the story of the infamous Easter egg hunt of 1960.

While strolling through the park on the holiday weekend, Ms. Ringuette, 66, was delighted to find the season's first chocolate lilies (Fritillaria camschatcensis), an appropriate discovery for Easter. The wildflower is native to this coast as far north as the Aleutian Islands. She did not refer to it by its more pungent nicknames -- skunk lily, outhouse lily, dirty diaper.


Nearby, a pickup football game took place on a camas meadow. She was also disappointed to see players tromping across ground that can look as if covered by a blue carpet.

The retired teacher belongs to a group called Friends of Beacon Hill Park, whose advocacy on behalf of returning the park to its natural state does not always win it friends among other park users.

"I'm all for maintaining the more natural areas," she said. "A lot of people think this is a crappy area and we ought to build something on it."

It has always been such.

In 1882, the province transferred the lands of the park to a city then counting fewer than 10,000 residents. Ms. Ringuette's research reveals the city soon afterward passed bylaws forbidding gambling, cattle grazing and the discharge of firearms in the park. Her research also shows cattle continued to graze within the confines, while the popularity of weekend horse races inevitably led to the placing of bets.

So much for rigid stewardship.

The argument continues on the 125th anniversary.

Beacon Hill Park is a verdant gem in a city with no shortage of spectacular scenery.

Winston Churchill planted a hawthorn tree here in 1929, a ceremonial honour soon after granted to the visiting King of Siam. Emily Carr was born near the park and could often be found here painting. A speaker's corner encouraged soap-box politicians.

Even today, the park has a cricket pitch, a soccer field, a petting zoo and a putting green, as well as a band shell and a children's water park.

The park has many unwanted visitors, including such invasive, non-native species as the American bullfrog, English Ivy and Scottish broom. Workers have also had to remove the debris left by human squatters.

Last summer, the red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) resident in the park's Goodacre Lake seemed to disappear. (Turns out a resident raccoon regards the terrapins as a crunchy canapé.) Although the turtles are not native, they create no problems in the park and their numbers are likely to be maintained by disaffected owners.

Last week, Ms. Ringuette counted 23 heron eggs destroyed by an eagle.

She lives in an apartment building across the street from the park, across the street from the largest heron rookery on Vancouver Island.

The herons are helpless in defending their nests against predatory birds.

"All they can do when an eagle comes is rise up and circle and make a lot of noise," she said. Her favourite description of the heron's harsh call is that it sounds like "gargling oyster shells."

Her interest in the park's story was sparked by the curiosity of a newcomer.

Born in Juneau, Ala., she grew up in the fishing port community of Seward. Her father worked as an agent for the Alaska Steamship Co., a most unlikely occupation for a man who had left his landlocked native state of North Dakota in search of work during the Depression. Her mother was a native-born Alaskan whose father had arrived in the territory as a gold-rush prospector.

Young Janis excelled at school and was prepared to attend the University of Alaska when her high-school principal suggested she apply to Stanford University in California. She had never heard of it, but won not only admission but a scholarship.

She enrolled in a journalism program, lasting just two weeks because of her dislike for writing under pressure. She switched to political science.

She took her studies seriously, an approach not shared by many in the dormitory. "The other girls seemed to be always squeaking about boys and their clothes. I didn't have time for that stuff." She earned spending money by holding several part-time jobs, from babysitting to housecleaning.

She earned a bachelor's degree in 1958, following up with a master's in history and education in 1963. Her California sojourn kept her from two memorable events back home in Alaska -- statehood in 1959 and the great earthquake of 1964. "I was told everything in front of our house had fallen into the ocean," she said.

She was hired to teach at a Palo Alto high school. Among her assignments was to give lessons on European history, not among her specialties. As it turned out, she got help from the Canadian-born teacher who shared the classroom with her. They married and the couple moved to British Columbia in 1975. Norm Ringuette designed the website -- http://www.islandnet...lpark/index.htm -- for his wife's park history.

She has spent uncounted hours and hundreds of dollars in copying fees while reading old newspapers on microfilm at the archives and at the library. The open spaces of the park have inspired countless dreamers over the years to propose building monuments. A continuing theme has been the desire to build within the park.

The projects rejected by the city over the past 125 years include a hospital, a museum, a fire hall, an aquarium, an observatory, a convention centre, a pitch-and-putt golf course, a dozen different restaurants and tearooms, and a replica Indian village to be constructed entirely of concrete. In 1966, the city's park committee unanimously rejected a 25-metre-tall "Space Age Tree House" to be built atop Beacon Hill as a tourist attraction and a showcase for forest companies.

The most bizarre of all the proposals was presented in 1909, when the Vancouver Island Development League suggested building a half-sized replica of the Parthenon entirely of island timber.

Sometimes, even innocent plans have gone awry in the park. The Junior Chamber of Commerce invited families to the park for an Easter egg hunt in 1960. More than twice the expected 6,000 hunters showed up, and the event quickly degenerated into an egg-tossing, tulip-picking fiasco. The greensward has been unsullied by Easter egg hunters ever since.

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#2 victorian fan

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 02:44 PM

BEACON HILL PARK TO GET MUNICIPAL HERITAGE STATUS

http://www.cfax1070....hp?newsId=11244

A COMMITTEE OF VICTORIA CITY COUNCIL HAS VOTED TO DESIGNATE BEACON HILL PARK A MUNICIPAL HERITAGE SITE.

PAM MADOFF HAS LONG BEEN A LEADING ADVOCATE FOR HERITAGE PRESERVATION AT CITY HALL... [...]

#3 Bernard

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 03:08 PM

Will we get back the traditional horse racing?

Here is a link to a good history of the park

#4 victorian fan

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 03:17 PM

and a bear pit?

#5 G-Man

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 03:28 PM

This is insane. The park already has far too much protection. What does this do other than entrench a faulty set of rules?

#6 Bingo

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 04:06 PM

[quote name='victorian fan']BEACON HILL PARK TO GET MUNICIPAL HERITAGE STATUS

http://www.cfax1070....hp?newsId=11244

A COMMITTEE OF VICTORIA CITY COUNCIL HAS VOTED TO DESIGNATE BEACON HILL PARK A MUNICIPAL HERITAGE SITE.

<Edit by Mod -- off topic>

Beacon Hill Park is not going away any time soon, so it is an easy PR statement to get back on the heritage bandwagon at little cost.

#7 Sue Woods

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 04:50 PM

This is insane. The park already has far too much protection. What does this do other than entrench a faulty set of rules?


Will this not (finally) end the reign of the "Friends of Beacon Hill Park" who fight anyone who wants to use the park for events? From what I've gleaned this will actually open the park up for use by the community at large. But I may be wrong.

#8 victorian fan

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 05:35 PM

Will this not (finally) end the reign of the "Friends of Beacon Hill Park" who fight anyone who wants to use the park for events? From what I've gleaned this will actually open the park up for use by the community at large. But I may be wrong.


Madoff said guidelines for use of the park would stay exactly the same after heritage designation.

#9 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 05:52 PM

OK, well does anyone know what the designation does for us?

#10 Caramia

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 07:35 PM

Should allow us access to funding to maintain some parts of the park.
Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

#11 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 07:42 PM

Should allow us access to funding to maintain some parts of the park.


Then I'm all for it.

#12 mat

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 07:45 PM

Should allow us access to funding to maintain some parts of the park.


I wonder if that changes any of the regulations or authority over the park. Currently it is my understanding that events cannot have commercial vendors within the park borders ie: Luminera has food stands outside..

If that could change then there is revenue potential above and beyond dipping into already limited heritage funds.

#13 G-Man

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 07:47 PM

Maintain it in the same fascist way that we have been or improve the park?

What would be amazing is the ability we would have to maintain the park if there was revenue coming in from a restaurant on Beacon Hill or a Merry go round near the zoo.

#14 Bernard

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:13 PM

The heritage designation will not open up any sources of funding for the park for any level of government. The only funding source I could see would to divert some of the Victoria Heritage Foundation money that goes towards homeowners maintaining their houses.

There is no possible way any managment regime for the park could more restrictive than what we have now. Somehow a park that was supposed to be for the whole city was hijacked by a small local group of people lucky enough to live next door to the park.

The City of Victoria has a shortage of parks in a number of neighbourhoods, the Burnside Gorge one where I live being an example. The acreage of parks in the city is reasonable per capita, it just happens to be mainly in one major park.

The current management of the park is in direct contravention of the charter the park was created under. There was no intent to create a park for one neighbourhood, but one for the whole city. The current management regime places to much weight on the people living next to the park and does not consider how to make the park available to everyone in the city.

Because most of us in the city do not live near the park, the city should put more weight on those of us not close to the park than anyone living near it.

Interestingly the Trust for the park allows for horse racing, I think it is time to demand that there be horse racing in the park.

I have also never understood what non-profits are not allowed to run concessions in the park for events. The Trust and the court decisions around it only state that you can not run a for profit thing in the park.

Another thing that is being done in the park that is contravention of the charter is any emphasis on conservation. The park is specifically there for the recreation and enjoyment of the public, there is no mention of conservation being allowed to restrict the public in the park. I think someone should launch a lawsuit demanding an end to all conservation in the park. This is as legitimate at the no commercial activities in the park lawsuit.

The ban on event sponsors banners in the park directly restricts the public's recreation and enjoyment of the park. If we had banners at the concert bowl there would ways to have large concerts there for the public.

If the city were to stay true to the Trust, it should measure how many people use the park and then have a plan that focuses on increasing use of the park each and every year and have this is the core and only focus of the park management plan.

To facilitate this the city could pave a few acres for more parking. The park should have a lot more parking so that a lot more people could access the park.

If all of this sounds crazy, it is not, it is simply the implications of the Trust as it stands. What I am suggesting is more in keeping with the spirit of the Trust when it was created than what has happened.

There is a compromise that makes sense. The rational thing to do is to have the city to request that the province abolish the Trust and manage Beacon Hill as it should, the crown jewel of the city.

(ps Maybe I should launch the lawsuit to ban all conservation in the park... I am sure the public of the city would hate me for it, but that only matters if I wanted to run for council.)

#15 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:20 PM

I have suggested in the past the City should just go and do as they please, even if lawsuits fly. Friends of the Park won't get all that much support for their side, at least in public opinion, and maybe the City can just run them out of money.

#16 gumgum

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:43 PM

Back up a little bit here. So Caramia mentioned that it should take away the "friends" power. Is there more info on this? Or is a theory? What rights does the city have over a park with Heritage Status?
If the city gives a private home heritage status, all it does is "protect" the home from any exterior alteration.

From the way I see it it only strengthens what the "friends" have be fighting for all along: to follow the trust word by word.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope the city has a hidden agenda that result in stripping the "friends" of any power based on some loophole in heritage status.

#17 Sue Woods

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 09:06 PM

(ps Maybe I should launch the lawsuit to ban all conservation in the park..)


Good idea! I think you would have lots of support given your intent. Let me know if you want some help.

#18 G-Man

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 09:17 PM

The heritage designation will not open up any sources of funding for the park for any level of government. The only funding source I could see would to divert some of the Victoria Heritage Foundation money that goes towards homeowners maintaining their houses.

There is no possible way any managment regime for the park could more restrictive than what we have now. Somehow a park that was supposed to be for the whole city was hijacked by a small local group of people lucky enough to live next door to the park.

The City of Victoria has a shortage of parks in a number of neighbourhoods, the Burnside Gorge one where I live being an example. The acreage of parks in the city is reasonable per capita, it just happens to be mainly in one major park.

The current management of the park is in direct contravention of the charter the park was created under. There was no intent to create a park for one neighbourhood, but one for the whole city. The current management regime places to much weight on the people living next to the park and does not consider how to make the park available to everyone in the city.

Because most of us in the city do not live near the park, the city should put more weight on those of us not close to the park than anyone living near it.

Interestingly the Trust for the park allows for horse racing, I think it is time to demand that there be horse racing in the park.

I have also never understood what non-profits are not allowed to run concessions in the park for events. The Trust and the court decisions around it only state that you can not run a for profit thing in the park.

Another thing that is being done in the park that is contravention of the charter is any emphasis on conservation. The park is specifically there for the recreation and enjoyment of the public, there is no mention of conservation being allowed to restrict the public in the park. I think someone should launch a lawsuit demanding an end to all conservation in the park. This is as legitimate at the no commercial activities in the park lawsuit.

The ban on event sponsors banners in the park directly restricts the public's recreation and enjoyment of the park. If we had banners at the concert bowl there would ways to have large concerts there for the public.

If the city were to stay true to the Trust, it should measure how many people use the park and then have a plan that focuses on increasing use of the park each and every year and have this is the core and only focus of the park management plan.

To facilitate this the city could pave a few acres for more parking. The park should have a lot more parking so that a lot more people could access the park.

If all of this sounds crazy, it is not, it is simply the implications of the Trust as it stands. What I am suggesting is more in keeping with the spirit of the Trust when it was created than what has happened.

There is a compromise that makes sense. The rational thing to do is to have the city to request that the province abolish the Trust and manage Beacon Hill as it should, the crown jewel of the city.

(ps Maybe I should launch the lawsuit to ban all conservation in the park... I am sure the public of the city would hate me for it, but that only matters if I wanted to run for council.)


This post made my day. I agree completely!

#19 Caramia

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 09:26 PM

Back up a little bit here. So Caramia mentioned that it should take away the "friends" power. Is there more info on this? Or is a theory? What rights does the city have over a park with Heritage Status?


That wasn't me. I was the one who figured that it could open some doors to funding from Heritage Organizations.
Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

#20 gumgum

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 10:10 PM

My bad. I read it wrong.

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