Trust Protects Beacon Hill from Hastings's Fate

Editorical by Helen Oldershaw in Times Colonist Tuesday October 2008

Buildings, pavement replaced greenery in that park after rules were ignored

The Friends of Beacon Hill Park are opposed to the continuous whittling away at the trust under which the park was granted by the province to the City of Victoria.

An editorial and articles published in the Times Colonist recently were critical of the Friends' stance. Published letters favoured either side of the issue, but most sided with the Friends and presented excellent cases.

The trust enabled the park to remain and become what it is so admired for today. Contrast this with once-beautiful Hastings Park, granted to Vancouver under a protective trust at about the same time, where nobody defended that trust.

A racetrack, exhibition grounds, stables, barns and acres of parking lots, combined with pavement and gravel, replaced pretty well all greenery. In 2004 the province amended that trust to legalize gambling, casinos and slot machines in Hastings Park, as well as allowing the movie industry to take over some buildings.

Apparently this amendment will be challenged in court as soon as the Olympic Games are over in 2010. In some 120 years most of that "park" has now been privatized. Meanwhile, Beacon Hill Park has been defended and preserved.

On Aug. 5 a private letter was sent by the Friends to the Terry Fox Foundation to inform it of our concern about plans of the local organizers to change its 20-year venue for the run at the University of Victoria to Beacon Hill Park. This letter was forwarded by the foundation to the local organizers, who made public parts of this letter five weeks later, when the possibility of an injunction had long been set aside.

A Sept. 20 story in the Times Colonist asked: "So who are the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, and what have they got against fun?" This would be appropriate in an opinion piece or editorial, not in unbiased reporting.

The Friends are not against fun, period. Is Victoria city against fun for not wanting people to have the harmless fun of buying a slice of pizza after 1 a.m.? A large part of the Victoria Police budget is geared to prevent people from having "fun." One person's "fun" is another person's infraction, nuisance or damage. And as far as the need of buying ice cream and coffee in Beacon Hill Park is concerned, Beacon Drive-In is only five minutes away just outside and overlooking the park.

A letter from a past-president of Veselka Ukrainian Dance Association wrongly equates those who do not really support culture as such, but rather their own commercial interest by insisting to be advertised in the park, with being "sponsors of culture."

To set the writer straight: Beacon Hill Park rules indeed forbid posting commercial logos of sponsors, but do allow mentioning sponsors in plain print on program hand-outs (no commercial logos), and do allow mentioning sponsors by name from the stage from time to time but not every couple of minutes.

The same writer complains the media (who are not bound by any trust rules) will not allow the listing of any sponsors; they call it "free" advertising instead of acknowledgement of support. Thus it is certainly evident that the media are way more restrictive than the Beacon Hill Park Trust rules. So it is more precise to state that "Media rules hurt cultural events," not "Park rules" as the headline of this letter read.

The Friends of Beacon Hill Park are grateful for and heartened by all the support, either published or private, that it is receiving for its efforts in preserving the BHP jewel.

Helen Oldershaw is the chairwoman of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park Society.