Kings Park advocates are calling on Saanich to help rekindle efforts to save the greenspace with a $1.75 million contribution and a fundraising extension.
The municipality bought the six-acre property from BC Hydro for $5.5 million in 2019. At the time, the district also announced that $2.75 million would need to be raised, to offset the cost of the park as Saanich had borrowed $4 million for the purchase. Otherwise, portions of the lot would need to be sold.
The deadline to raise the money passed at the end of March, and on April 26, the mayor’s standing committee tasked with overseeing the Kings Park fundraiser will request that council grant a one-year extension, seek outside contributions and use the funds from the sale of the district’s Willis Point Road property to help with the purchase.
The original fundraising deadline was Aug. 31, 2020, but that June, council agreed to extend it to March 31, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been an intense 12 months” and the pandemic isn’t over, said Rebecca Sterritt, area resident and member of the standing committee. In-person fundraisers were canceled due to restrictions on gatherings, donations dried up, many grants were shut down until 2022 and volunteers have no idea when fundraising can fully resume.
In March, the standing committee agreed to propose that council consider extending the deadline again to March 31, 2022, and asking Oak Bay and Victoria to assist with the purchase to establish a subregional park, said Mayor Fred Haynes, committee chair.
The greenspace has long been enjoyed by residents in all three municipalities as well as by staff and patients at the nearby Royal Jubilee Hospital, he explained.
The committee will also ask that the $1.75 million from the sale of the Willis Point Road property be contributed to the fund. Council approved the sale of a municipally owned land in November 2020. Saanich will transfer the property, located just north of the Hartland Landfill, to the CRD on April 15 and the payment will go into a land sales reserve fund – which can be used for land acquisition, upon council approval.
“It’s a huge amount of money that we’re trying to fundraise” and most grants won’t cover land acquisition, so the $1.75 million could go a long way to saving the greenspace, Sterritt said.
She added that the pandemic has demonstrated the value of quiet, natural outdoor spaces so advocates are hopeful the property can be saved, then restored.
The fundraiser can be accessed at saanichlegacy.ca.