It’s pick-a-park weather on Vancouver Island with a long list of getaways to choose from. It is a list grown longer every year since the 1960s when the Capital Regional District was new – and much maligned.
The CRD has been harshly criticized over the years as it has tried to meet its mandate and bring neighbouring municipalities together in common cause. Regardless, it has never seriously wavered in its ambition to create one of the greatest local park systems in Canada.
At last count the CRD had 33 parks on its roster comprising some 13,000 hectares ranging from East Sooke, with 50 km of trails and choices of tough or easy hiking, to Coles Bay on the west side of Saanich Peninsula with 3.63 hectares of easy walking and warm swimming.
It all started in the late 1960s when Hugh Curtis was chairman of the board, Bill Long was the executive director and Tony Roberts was the planner. They had a never-ending list of lands to be acquired for parks. All three are now lost to the communities they served so well and I doubt if the thousands enjoying their six-decades-old efforts are aware to whom they owe their pleasure.
Tony was the idea man; Long was the guy who stickhandled a proposal through technical and budget channels; and Curtis was the politician responsible for getting majority approval from the directors of the board. They were a good team, not always agreeing at a first proposal, but all firmly on side once Tony won his sales pitch.
The CRD maintains a comprehensive list (Google: CRD Regional parks and trails) with thumbnail descriptions, hiking advice that trails are “easy, moderate, or challenging,” and approximate hiking times. Local readers thinking of tackling a wilderness hike within a 30-minute drive of Victoria should be sure to check online for trail conditions and wild life activity. There is a daily update if cougars or bears are wandering about.
Don’t be silly and go wandering off on your own. If it’s marked wilderness, that’s what it is. Travel with a companion and let a friend or neighbour know your plans.East Sooke and the Sea to Sea Regional Parks are for serious hikers although East Sooke at the Aylard Farm end is all-ages oriented.
If your family is on the young side you can enjoy a multitude of smaller parks scattered between Greater Victoria,Port Renfrew,North Saanich and the start of the Malahat. And, if you would like to include a brief ferry trip, the Gulf Islands have many offerings. Check the list for Duck Creek on Salt Spring –“a cool shaded creek and open meadow provide a lovely field and stream hiking loop –approximately a 45 minute walk….”
Sounds about my pace, although one of my favorites for a not too stressful walk on the tame side is the Devonian Regional Park, “tucked in between Metchosin farmlands, this small nature sanctuary offers a quiet refuge … a gentle walking trail through mixed woodland and along a winding creek…easy to moderate.”
I leave the rest of the long list for readers to cherry pick while the sun shines. Wander around the CRD website and be sure to check “What To Bring.” It’s just a common-sense safety list that need not include money; our CRD parks are free.
If you do visit a park, large or small, pastoral refuge or strenuous wilderness, remember who set this land aside for you over the years. Politicians don’t do a lot to make us happy, but every few decades or so they produce a winner.
And, for those brief, but pleasing moments in CRD parks in perpetuity, we should be thankful.