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