© Copyright – 2015 – Victoria Sports News

The City of Victoria by-law known commonly as the “no commercial activity in the park” prohibition is restrictive to some sporting events that promote health, wellness and competition. These events also happen to typically be fundraisers for charity. The st304_Park_Entrance_10K250rict by-law is a legacy from a few city councillors of the recent past, who took the language of the original by-laws too seriously. Do area residents really want to restrict sporting events from going on in the park?

The origin of the “no commercial activity” by-law

The city of Victoria was given most of the property that makes up Beacon Hill Park in 1882 by way of a land transfer from the province. Sir James Douglas, the governor of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, under the direction of the Hudson’s Bay Company, drew the park boarders before it was formally surveyed to its current footprint. Later, John Blair, a Scottish landscape architect won the bid by the city to beautify and finish the park and its landscape. The park was, as Douglas claimed, “Set aside to protect it from grasping hands.”

Horse racing was brought in and the “commercial activities” blossomed; specifically betting. Eventually a stop was put to the racing and that ended the adverse side of commercial activity taking place in the park, as well as the elimination of the firing of guns and cow grazing. At the time temporary commercial event signage was not on anyone’s radar, but it is what prevents many sporting events from taking place in the park now.

Today, Beacon Hill Park is a 200-acre city garden – an oasis of flower beds, rabbits, river otters, squirrels, racoons, herons, eagles, mallard ducks and hawks. There is a broad array of tree and shrub species, not to mention “millions” of flowers. The park boasts several man-made lakes that are home to frogs, turtles and various waterfowl; it is a refuge for the residents of Greater Victoria and is a commerce-free tourist haven.

Recreation in the park

The park is home to a well-manicured cricket pitch and putting green as well as tennis courts, two all-season soccercricketgame pitches and baseball diamonds located on the corner of Douglas Street and Dallas Road, which is located just across the street from the popular Mile “0” landmark and the statue of Terry Fox. Fox appears to be looking out onto Juan de Fuca Straight and at the Olympic Mountains that loom 21-kilometres to the south.

On the north-east corner of the park at Heywood Avenue and Southgate Street is another soccer pitch and in-season it turns into a baseball diamond. The city crews install the outfield fence when winter turns to spring. There are ground-level “dugouts” and bleachers. Plenty of baseball (softball) takes place there.

For runners and walkers who work downtown or live nearby, Beacon Hill Park is a small patch of heaven. There are asphalt walking paths that intersect across broad stretches of grass and garden beds and bedrock. There is the hill –Beacon Hill, which at one time featured an actual beacon for visiting mariners to navigate by. The hill is a great place to view the ocean and mountains. This hill is perfect for athletes to work-out on too.

There is Camas Circle – an oval drive that is exactly one mile (1609-metres) long – perfect for measured workouts for cyclists and runners. Camas Circle hosted those early horse races that took place in the 1800s. During the 1990s a 10-mile (16K) running race was held there as part of the non-profit Sri Chimnoy organisation.

During the 1990s and early 2000s there were two major run events that had started or finished in the park. There was what was known as the Garden City 10K (now TC10K) and the CIBC Run for the Cure. Between the two events they raised annually more than half a million dollars for charity and of course promoted health and wellness as well as awareness for their causes. During the 1980s and 1990s, there was the Dallas Road Dash 10K that ran from the crosswalk on Dallas, parallel to the Checkerboard House and flag and mast that sits upon the hill. There is also the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon (Royal Victoria Marathon), which runs through the park twice, although the race doesn’t start or finish in the park.

At the time that the TC10K and CIBC Run for the Cure were run in the park, former mayors Alan Lowe and Bob Cross both felt that city councillors were taking the language of the by-law to “limit commercial activity” too far. Commercial signs were no longer permitted in the park, whatsoever. In order for the CIBC Run for the Cure and the TC10K to raise over half a million dollars, they needed sponsorship to help cover the fixed costs of operating the events as well as to provide incentive for people to pay money and or collect donations to participate.

For the 2004 TC10K city council decided to allow advertising banners in the park for that one year. The number and size of finish banners would be “restricted” and the number of commercial trucks limited to six. Food and beverage tents were limited to six. The city council told the TC10K organisers to find another location for 2005. The guidelines appear to be arbitrary.

How do food and beverage – given away for free – and trucks for moving needed supplies in and out of the park contravene the “no-commercial activity by-law?” The short answer is they don’t.

In comparison, Vancouver’s Stanley Park hosts several races that start, finish and are run entirely or mostly within the park boundaries. They erect temporary signage and banners to promote the events and their sponsors. For example there is the BMO St. Patrick’s Day 5K in mid-March and two weeks later the Modo Spring Run Off 8K. The Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon routes wind their way through the park with upwards of 15,000 runners participating.

San Francisco’s Gold Gate Park is 1,017 acres in size. Like Beacon Hill Park, they describe the park as featuring gardens, playgrounds, lakes, picnic groves, trails, and monuments, plus an array of cultural venues, events, and activities.

The park is home to several races throughout the year including road and cross country events from kid’s runs as well as community races from 5K and beyond and a summer race series. The Golden Gate 10K is a popular event and is taken in by a few hundred runners. The race starts and finishes and is run entirely within the park; a traffic-free environment.

Sense of community

Residents take better care of their neighbourhood when they have a sense of belonging, community and ownership. Psychologist Seymour Sarason authored The Psychological Sense of Community: Prospects for a community psychology (1974) where he introduced the concept of “psychological sense of community”. He proposed that psychological sense of community should become the conceptual center for the psychology of community, suggesting that it, “is one of the major bases for self-definition” (p. 157).

turtles1According to Sarason there are four elements that create a sense of community, two of which are: a shared emotional connection and feeling a sense of membership.

A sense of membership manifests itself where a person feels a sense of boundary, emotional safety, a sense of belonging, and identification where they feel a personal and emotional investment in. Community sporting events that provide opportunities for participation, cheering for a team or volunteering provide that much needed shared sense of community; a shared emotional connection.

Beacon Hill Park should permit sporting activities and events. Any temporary signage used during these events should be permitted without prejudice. The Park is a jewel in the crown of the city; a playground and an ideal gathering place for resident to feel a sense of belonging.

The language that is contained in the 2015 Application for Use for Cameron Bandshell as well as the Special Event Application Guidelines do a great job of protecting the park from overt commercial activity, noise and potential disrespect for the park, see below; however, the “No charge, commercial promotion” language is perhaps vague and potentially open to interpretation. And that interpretation by city councillors may have initiated a decline in resident’s psychological sense of community and emotional connection. In a sense, there is a risk that residents may not feel that they belong to the park and the park itself belongs to someone else; the city that rules over it, which creates a disconnect.

Beacon Hill Park is one of the best locations in Greater Victoria to host sporting events, whether it is cycling or running races or many other activities that promote health through being active, experiencing competition and providing a sense of community for the residents of Victoria. As guardians of the park, the city needs to ease up on its restrictions and or definition of what is commercial activity. Surely a temporary sign is not actually a commercial activity; it is very different for example than that of the commerce exchanged with a food truck or a retail booth.

Sir James Douglas built the boundaries to the park over 100 years ago to protect it from grasping hands only, not from sport, recreation and charity and especially not from those wishing to enjoy a sense of community.

Cameron Bandshell – Beacon Hill Park – “Stage in the Park”

· All concerts / events shall be open to the public. No charge, commercial promotion / silver collection/ collection of donations / activity or sale of goods will be allowed in the Bandshell or any part of the Beacon Hill Park.
Special event application guidelines:

(l) Sponsor Signs and Banners

Sponsorship acknowledgment is often required by organizers in order to secure funding for non-for-profit events. The City requires that this acknowledgment be restricted to playing a supportive role in event presentation and therefore the size and number of banners and signs are limited only to what is necessary. The primary and most visible information must be event-related. The area of signage allocated to sponsor identification may not be greater than 40%.