Clover Point, the waterfront outlook south of Dallas Road (near its intersection with Moss St.) has been in the news recently. A City of Victoria staff report recommended some interim design changes along the existing parking loop. The post below is a letter from GVPN Chair Ray Straatsma to Victoria Mayor and Council; it was one of hundreds of letters submitted to Council on this topic.
February 10, 2021
Dear Mayor and Council –
I would like to make some observations about Clover Point and the proposed changes released last week by Victoria Parks & Recreation.
As Chair of the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, I wrote to Mayor and Council, Victoria Parks, and the CRD WasteWater team in early 2018 pointing to the great need to review and opportunity to renew the design of public spaces along the Dallas Rd waterfront.
The new bike/multi-use path, adjacent seating and multiple new crosswalks on the Ogden Point side are clear evidence of the benefits of new and contemporary waterfront public amenities. Even in the chill winter months, the new paths are proving very popular; I have heard directly from dozens of local users how enjoyable the new path and seating areas are.
On Clover Point, I suggest the most important issue to consider are its current conditions: the existing parking loop has remained unchanged for several decades. The original oceanfront walking path actually ends at Clover Point, dumping users unceremoniously onto the parking lot. Or onto a precarious muddy ‘goat-path’ with real risks along the edge of the bluff.
We drew attention to those shoddy conditions in 2018. Councillor Geoff Young and others called for a proper walk-path there way back in 1993. Years of neglect have led us to the current situation. The CRD Wastewater project has a good range of nearby public amenity improvements that should be properly matched and complemented by City-led design improvements on Clover Point itself.
A core principle of successful public realm design requires multiple uses and functions to attract and welcome of diverse set of activities and people, over time: times of the day, the week, the year. The proposed conceptual design achieves that, with the opportunity to add more features, adjust according to actual usage and activity, in the years ahead. The interim aspect of the proposal – intended to test out a repurposing of the parking loop and try out new and wider set of play areas, seating and places to linger – has not been appreciated by some early and negative reactions.
In contrast, the now decades-old drive and park loop serves a unitary limited purpose: drive, park, watch the ocean.
More crucially, the parking loop constrains and excludes other types of usage – even a simple walk around the point is limited by moving vehicles and absence of safe pedestrian passage. Spaces for kids to roam free and explore are also constrained by the 1960s-era automobile-oriented design.
Victoria Council should ask itself: if the City was to acquire a new piece of similar waterfront acreage, would it even contemplate the only public feature to be a looping parking lot for users to view the ocean from their cars? Of course not!!
This week, some vocal residents are insisting that Clover Point ‘remain as it is’ – arguing it’s an important lookout destination for people with mobility issues. Yet there are literally hundreds of parking spots along Dallas Road to see the ocean, with dozens less than 50metres away. And many other oceanfront viewing areas around the region. But when Clover Point public space is devoted almost entirely to that one activity, it detracts from the potential of this special section of ocean frontage. (And strangely, those voices so strongly concerned about mobility issues never seem to mention the poor condition of the walking environment there – certainly not a viable walking path for seniors or anyone using a stroller).
Many local residents are understandably attached to Victoria’s waterfront. As are we at the Placemaking Network. We simply believe that quality public design should strive to serve a broad range of activities and people, providing equity, enjoyment and activity for all resident and visitors, of all ages and abilities. The proposed concept design is a very good and supportable step in that direction, with opportunities to improve further.
I trust Victoria Council will support the concept plan for Clover Point.
Thank you for your consideration
Regards, Ray Straatsma
Chair, Greater Victoria Placemaking Network
Post-Script: On Feb 11, Council asked Parks staff to come back with additional design options by Feb 25; and Mayor Lisa Helps wrote a detailed blog post providing additional context and input on the Clover Point design proposals.