A listing for an undeveloped parcel of land in north Langford has prompted a neighbour to start a petition in hopes of having the property purchased as a park.
The 40-hectare parcel, on the market for $3.8 million, is on the Highlands border. It shares a boundary with the northeast tip of Goldstream Provincial Park, where an unofficial trail off the back side of Mt. Finlayson lets out onto Finlayson Road. Separated by just two parcels along the east side of Finlayson Arm to the north is Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. The upper boundary of Thetis Lake Regional Park isn’t far away.
Kristen Awram, who has enjoyed hiking through the property for several years, noticed new private property signage last year and found the listing last spring. She’s dubbed it Magical Mountain.
Awram contacted BC Parks hoping they’d be interested in buying the land to expand Goldstream Park. They liked the idea, but referred her to the Capital Regional District, which has more capacity to buy land. The CRD also liked the idea and have surveyed the property. The results of the survey will be reviewed at an upcoming meeting.
The owner says the land was logged in the early 1900s, and estimates the 120-year-old forest could be worth $2.5 million if harvested for timber. The property includes a sandy beach, old trees, phone lines and electricity, but no sewer or water service. At this point the land couldn’t support a large development, but there would be nothing stopping a new owner from harvesting the timber and waiting for more development in the area. The land broker is Victor Smith with Sutton Group.
The Land Conservancy of B.C. has assessed the land and consider it valuable ecologically, not just for the biodiversity and healthy forest, but also for its contiguous roaming space for animals. That non-profit is connecting with all interested groups actively looking for a conservation solution.
Awram, a stay-at-home mom who runs a vacation rental on her property, asked the owner to support the aim of turning his land into a park by removing the listing temporarily to give her time to organize, but the owner declined.
Awram decided to start the public campaign to try to influence decision makers, posting a petition on Change.org on Aug. 19. She and her supporters knew they risked raising awareness for potential buyers, but hope what has become an overwhelming show of public support will work in their favour.
The petition grew organically with little promotion to start, hitting 2,500 signatures within a few days – 80 per cent were local residents. Then Change.org started promoting the petition and it went national. Now thousands of signatures a day are being collected– as of Wednesday afternoon there were more than 17,000 signatures, with supporters from across Canada.
The exponential increase took Awram by surprise – she wondered if it was bots. But through her vacation rental, she’s met people from all over the world who came to see Goldstream Park.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if people were signing because they’ve actually been to Goldstream and know how special the area is,” she said. “People from all over the world come here to see the big trees. It is something people care a lot about.”
Awram is waiting for CRD staff to review their assessment and present the findings to a committee this fall.
In the meantime she’s continuing to canvas neighbours for support and has reached out to the WSANEC Leadership Council to let them know what she’s working on. She would support them in whatever capacity in which they want to be involved, Awram said, since it’s their traditional land.
And, she’s hoping no one else buys the property.
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