Imagine a pond at the corner of Vining and Stanley, black cottonwoods spreading their honeyed scent, bigleaf maples flying their leaves like hands stretched to the sky.
Rock Bay Creek rose here at the former Harris Pond and still flows into Rock Bay. In the early years, settlers skated on the iced-over pond. In summer, they used it as a bathing hole. The pond and the nearby springs provided drinking water for the fur trading fort, established in 1843, and the city that sprang up around it. The water was transported to the fort in barrels.
Around 1889, the pond was filled in and the creek was run through a brick culvert three metres or ten feet below ground.
The springs are still there, bubbling up in people's backyards, and rippling down neighbourhood streets, reminding us of the power of water, giving life to every living thing.
Placed at the s.e. corner of Stanley Ave. & Vining St. in Fernwood
Imagine a marshy wetland, cattails, reeds and sedges, cedar and cottonwood stands nearby. Flickers flash their secret orange feathers. Pileated woodpeckers tap bark for bugs. Wood ducks wing in to nest their young in tree hollows, taking hatchlings for first swims in early summer. Frogs poke up from springtime hiding places, chorusing songs into the night air.
Where you are standing, Rock Bay Creek meandered through lowlands too damp to develop. Two blocks away on Garden Street, Chinese settlers kept market gardens at a spot chosen because of the abundant water. That historic garden continues, known now as Earthbound Community Garden, with allotment plots for avid growers of vegetables and flowers.
Small pocket parks and green spaces remain because they were too wet for earlier technology to build on. Now they are part of our community's treasured places where people play and dogs run. In the future you may see a rain garden, a bioswale or even a section of the old creek, its banks planted with native plants that help filter water on its reach to Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary in the heart of our city.
The Sign 2-sided
Placed near the children's playground in Alexander Park,
Bay Street & Oregon Avenue
Imagine here a little creek flowing by, water pooling from rocks and hills above, licorice ferns and sea blush tucked into the rocky outcrop, or skunk cabbage on the swampy banks. Imagine a productive ecosystem, linked to the Salish Sea, where species thrived and food was gathered.
Where you are standing, Rock Bay Creek flowed eastward toward the ocean, entering Rock Bay at Finlayson Falls. With the arrival of European settlers, this parcel of land was used for farming, then houses and roads were built. By the mid 1800s, the creek running here would have crossed John and Josette Work's Hillside Farm which once covered much of today's Hillside Quadra neighbourhood.
The natural history of Blackwood Park determined its current use. Too damp to be built upon, it has instead become a place to play and gather, a neighbourhood respite nestled within the city's noisy traffic. Thinking like a watershed, we might now imagine the creek's revival and a future for this land that includes a glimpse of its wild and watery past.
(photo from Victoria Heritage Foundation website)
The Sign 2-sided
Placed at the n.w. corner of Blackwood Park,
Cook Street & Haultain Street