Karen Bourne in her backyard, an Oak Bay oasis of enamel. (Black Press Media file photo)

Karen Bourne in her backyard, an Oak Bay oasis of enamel. (Black Press Media file photo)

Looking back at the top Oak Bay stories of 2020

Five stories that captured the interest of Oak Bay News readers over the past year

While COVID-19 dominated the headlines around the world in 2020, that wasn’t the only story to pique the interest of Oak Bay News readers. Here are some of our favourite articles that appeared in the Oak Bay News this year.

Council approves wolf sculpture for Cattle Point

At first glance, the giant 25,000-pound marble sculpture doesn’t look like a wolf.

But step closer and the natural impression of a howling wolf becomes clearly visible on the broad face of the stone. It is complete with the natural details of a mouth, eye and chin line. Most of the features were already there when artist Kent Laforme sourced the stone in a Chemainus stone yard. But since May it has resided below a cathedral of fir and arbutus trees in Laforme’s outdoor Cordova Bay studio. It’s there that Laforme has slowly and carefully chipped away at hundreds of stone projects over the past 20 years.

In October, Oak Bay council approved the Takaya sculpture project to be permanently installed at Cattle Point.

Takaya was killed by a hunter in March after an eight-year run on Tl’ches (Discovery and Chatham Islands). The wolf’s legacy continues to grow, in part because the end of his life was closely monitored following his failed relocation after his January excursion to James Bay.

Looking Back: It took two years, $500,000 to build Oak Bay Marina in 1964

Before settlers, the shores along what is now known as Oak Bay bustled with canoes as the Indigenous Lekwungen-speaking people of the area sustainably thrived in villages there for thousands of years.

In 1851, the Hudson Bay Company sold its first section of the Victoria ward to HBC’s John Tod. By the 1890s much of (what would be) Oak Bay was sought after and development was underway. But it wasn’t until the construction of the Mount Baker Hotel in 1893 that Turkey Head became a regular boat launch.

Then came the 1902 fire that destroyed the Mount Baker Hotel. In 1908, the owners of a new Oak Bay Hotel at Beach Drive and Windsor Drive (later known as the Old Charming Inn) had Sam Maclure design a boathouse on piles that was capable of hosting guests. One report says it was built on the Orchard Avenue side of Turkey Head and moved to the other side, where the marina currently stands, in 1915.

By the late 1950s Bill Faith, an Irish immigrant, was the boathouse lessee and also had big ideas for a marina. But it took the ambition and talents of Bob Wright to string it all together.

With the 1962 construction of Oak Bay’s first and only 10-storey building, the Rudyard Kipling condo at Beach and Windsor, and the subsequent completion of the marina, the traditional Oak Bay landscape was revamped. Eventually, the marina opened Sealand from 1969 to 1992, but that is another story.

Oak Bay toilet garden brings relief in a time of stress

For the last decade, visitors on a narrow path between Mountjoy and Falkland roads in south Oak Bay have witnessed an enamel oasis like no other.

The gravel pathway is charming in itself, with a ceiling of branches on one end that neighbour Tom Bourne regularly clips, creating a tunnel effect about four metres long. Next to the tunnel is the Bournes’ garden, where Tom and Karen keep two dozen toilets recycled into garden planters.

The toilets come in a rainbow of colours and are an icebreaker for conversation. In fact, they’ve even become a destination, Karen said.

“A lot of people tell us they’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “Walking groups make it a destination, gardeners will knock on the door, and people will ask if we need a toilet.”

The answer right now is no, they have enough toilets, thank you.

“Unless it’s a real bright red,” Karen said, “but I don’t think we’re going to find one.”

Oak Bay United Church votes to pause any development

The Oak Bay United Church congregation voted to step back and will not move forward with its latest proposal for a rental housing development that would have put between 36 to 68 housing units within 250 metres of Oak Bay Village.

It ends a process that went public in 2017 but started even before that.

The church had decided on the 96-unit proposal it submitted to Oak Bay in 2018. It faced significant push back from a group of neighbours and was withdrawn before the necessary rezoning application ever made it to Oak Bay council.

However, the church did not give up on the idea of affordable housing. Last year Oak Bay United reached out to the Property Resource Team of The Pacific Mountain Region, an arm of the United Church of Canada. The property resource team conducted a feasibility study regarding the possibility of a purpose-built rental housing project at the property and brought back three proposals, which range from 36 to 68 units. The study came back with three scenarios and none of them resembled the previous proposal either in the number of housing units or site layout.

Because the church’s goal was to operate rental units, including below-market-rate units, a high threshold was needed to keep the project in the green, said Reverend Keith Howard.

“We are not closing the door on a future proposal,” Howard said. “The number of housing units that are involved in their proposal, to make it economically feasible, is more than 36 to 68 units. That number is a long way from what we had hoped.”

Oak Bay Lodge to be demolished

A request for proposals released in December shows that Oak Bay Lodge is scheduled to be razed.

The new RFP from the Capital Regional Hospital District seeks a construction manager to “procure and manage the deconstruction and demolition of the existing buildings” on the 3.9-acre site at 2251 Cadboro Bay Rd.

The budget for the demolition is estimated at $1.4 million, and includes hazardous material removal.

It is likely the final end to any speculation about using the facility to house either the senior portion (over 55), or all, of the people currently sheltering in Victoria parks. BC Housing had already declined on pursuing the matter earlier this fall.

The CRHD is in the process of planning that community consultation for early 2021, and will seek community feedback on the future use of the Oak Bay Lodge site.

The public engagement process will include significant notification to ensure that residents are informed of the opportunity for public input, said the CRD in a statement.


 

Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca

Best of 2020Year in Review

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Artist Kent Laforme with the Takaya sculpture in his Cordova Bay studio. (Black Press Media file photo)

Artist Kent Laforme with the Takaya sculpture in his Cordova Bay studio. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay is seeking new ideas for the use of Turkey Head in its request for proposals to renew the lease of Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay is seeking new ideas for the use of Turkey Head in its request for proposals to renew the lease of Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay signs that protest the United Church’s development proposal ask why people with stately-sized houses fear that they will lose something if someone else gains. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Oak Bay signs that protest the United Church’s development proposal ask why people with stately-sized houses fear that they will lose something if someone else gains. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Consultation for the redevelopment of the Oak Bay Lodge property will be conducted this fall. (Black Press Media file photo)

Consultation for the redevelopment of the Oak Bay Lodge property will be conducted this fall. (Black Press Media file photo)

Just Posted

Victoria police are asking for help locating Izabel Villeneuve, 14, who was last seen Jan. 19. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating missing 14-year-old

Izabel Villeneuve was last seen in the morning of Jan. 19

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Vancouver Island this weekend

Snow on Malahat to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us – maybe

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Reader’s Lens
The surf’s up at Whiffin Spit. Joan Stiebel snapped this photo on a recent windy day in Sooke. To submit a photo to Reader’s Lens, please email editor@sookenewsmirror.com. (Contributed photo)
Reader’s Lens

Reader’s Lens The surf’s up at Whiffin Spit. Joan Stiebel snapped this… Continue reading

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Most Read