Fernwood Then & Now




By Dorothy Field

The Fernwood Community Map was launched in March, 2014 and more than 4000 copies have been distributed in Fernwood and around the city. Over these past years numerous Fernwoodians have contributed. We also received enormous support from the UVIC Geography Department and their resident cartographer Ken Josephson.

Our hard copy map, Fernwood Then and Now, opens to 11” x 17” and folds to 3” x 5”, perfect size to slip in your pocket. Fernwood Now features our contemporary village showing Fernwood’s hot spots: good food, music, art, gardens, alternative health, and our dog park, as well as our bus and bike routes. Fernwood Then superimposes an 1863 map over the original topography, outlining First Nations and early settler history. In 1863, Fernwood didn’t extend much beyond Fernwood Street though sub-divisions had been laid out and a few large farms established. A street car started at Beacon Hill and ended at Fernwood and Gladstone. “Downtown Fernwood” grew up around the terminus.

Our map is part of the Green Map movement which began in 1995. Since then, 900 communities in 65 countries have mapped their home places. Green Maps use standard icons to identify community-minded sites and activities. We’ve created new icons for the springs that first provided Victoria’s water, the well in Stevenson Park, the historic breweries, and our Walnut Street crows.

We’ve also produced a Fernwood game based on the map which will spark conversation about what community is and what it might become. We’re planning some afternoons playing the game in early 2016, most likely at the Fernwood Inn. The game is a great way to share stories and hear some of the good bits you may have missed.

There’s also an on-line map where you can input places in Fernwood that are important to you. mapping.uvic.ca/fernwood.


Rock Bay Creek Revival

In the course of producing the map, some of us mappers became very interested in the stream that rose at Harris Pond and emptied into Rock Bay. It had no official name – we think of it as Rock Bay Creek — and no one’s seen it since Harris Pond was filled in and the stream was culverted.

Now, following on the successful remediation of Bowker Creek, we have plans to daylight parts of our stream – to bring it back to the surface in water gardens where it now flows below areas of green space: Alexander Park (Bay, Walnut and Oregon) , the green triangle at Cook and Haultain, etc. The city is positive about the idea but they’ve recently upgraded several of those green spaces, so they’re not about to tear up their new designs.

The stream flowed from Fernwood through North Park, Hillside/Quadra and Burnside/Gorge. Now neighbours in all four communities have started to prepare the way for bringing back parts of the stream and linking our neighbourhoods. Dan Doherty has led several stream walks pointing out how the streetscape and the vegetation tells us where it used to flow. In the spring, we’re planning a bigger, better stream walk through Hillside/Quadra and Burnside/Gorge.

We’ve also begun thinking about ways to remind neighbours about the water we took for granted and that we hope to see again:  a mandala with reeds and ducks where Harris Pond used to be? Salmon stenciled on the path of the stream? A stream parade with kids in salmon suits? A Rock Bay Creek song? Keep your ears open for opportunities to take part.

We plan to re-screen the film “Lost Rivers” in the spring of 2016. It tells the story of waterway restoration in Italy, London, and a suburb of New York. It’s a fantastic look at the underbelly of old cities and how citizens have worked with their abused water systems and brought them back to become vital to the lives of the people.

Lots going on. If you’d like to be kept informed of the next stream walk, the games afternoon, or take part in the daylighting discussion, email Dorothy Field <dotter (at) seaside (dot) net> and you’ll be on the list.

Harris Pond – Rock Bay Creek map PDF.

More detailed info at rockbaycreek.ca.

Watch this great little documentary.

Two geography students at UVic, Lindsay Kathrens and Ian Flock, volunteered with the daylighting group this spring and made this video as their final project. They were wonderful to work with and plan to continue with the project. The geography department is a great support for such ideas and initiatives. We’re lucky to have them.

Only 7 minutes. It’s packed with good information and a lot of fun!!

Stream Walks Update

The steam, now culverted, rose in Fernwood and ran through what is now North Park, Quadra/Hillside, and Burnside/Gorge. On February 7, we walked the first half, starting at the Cornerstone and ending, temporarily, at the green space where Cook Street, Haultain, and Blackwood come together. Dan Doherty, our stream leader, pointed out how to figure out where the creek ran. We stopped and listened to it gurgling away in the storm drain.

On February 28th, we met at the same green triangle where Cook, Haultain and Blackwood meet to continue the walk. Dan being unavailable, we self-guided ourselves looking for the low spots in the streets that indicate where the stream flows or flowed, listening at storm drains, and checking our assumptions against several old maps. We finished the walk where Queens runs into Government Street. From there, a chainlink fence blocks access to the inner harbour, but we caught glimpses through the wire. An unlovely “restoration”, a rock wall and two culverts, is off limits. Rock Bay has been one of the most polluted stretches of water in the region. It is now under Songhees jurisdiction. Our hope, particularly as Rock Bay is a possible site for a sewage treatment facility, is to raise awareness of the Rock Bay watershed as a whole, and to stir interest in a true restoration, working with First Nations and the communities in the watershed, that would make all of us proud. If you are interested in taking part in this initiative or being notified of the next stream walk, please contact Dorothy <dotter (at) seaside (dot) net>.

November 2016 Update

Did you know there was once a small lake called Harris Pond in the low spot at Vining and Stanley? And that a creek drained the pond, running through Fernwood, Hillside Quadra, and Burnside Gorge, before it emptied into Rock Bay? If you put your ear to one of the storm drains, you can hear it gurgling in its culvert.

In the late 1800s, rivers and creeks in towns and cities around the world had become polluted dumping grounds and carriers of cholera and other diseases. The solution — put them underground and forget about them, but that didn’t solve the problem of storm water and flooded streets and basements. Those of you who live along our creek may know this all too well.

Another question: are you aware of the great work of daylighting and cleaning up Bowker, Cecelia, and Colquitz Creeks? Well, daylighting is coming to a neighbourhood near you! The Rock Bay Creek Revival has received a My Great Neighbourhood Grant to lay the groundwork for daylighting bits of our creek. Besides daylighting, we hope to add bioswales and rain gardens along the creek’s route. The grant will support community engagement, art making activities, and community celebrations featuring music, art and drama. We will also be installing permanent signs to identify the spots where daylighting will occur.

The city agrees that daylighting our creek is do-able at Alexander Park (Bay, Oregon, and Walnut) in Fernwood, and Blackwood Park (Blackwood, Cook, and Haultain) and Wark Park (Fifth, and Wark) both in Hillside Quadra, though it will take some years to complete the project. These spaces remain green because they were too swampy to build on.

The idea of connecting the neighbourhoods that share the watershed that drains Rock Bay Creek is a holistic way of acknowledging our underlying earth and water systems. Besides the three neighbourhoods mentioned, the creek also drains North Park and Oaklands, and our liquid connection to the Gorge Waterway makes us part of an aquatic network amazingly rich in bird and sea life.

Our group continues to lead stream walks along the path of the creek, pointing out water-loving trees and low spots in the pavement that indicate the creek’s unseen presence. We’ll also be hosting film showings, talks, and activities that promise to be fun for all ages. If you’d like to know what’s happening, or if you’d like take part in a small or large way with this project, email Dorothy dotter [at] seaside [dot] net. We’d love to have you join us.

See upcoming stream walk on our News page.