The newly expanded Songhees Park has officially opened along Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
Located near the Johnson Street Bridge, the $3-million expansion project increased the size of Songhees Park by 1.8 acres and transformed it into a hillside greenspace, consisting of a Garry oak maritime meadow and coastal bluff gardens, accessible pathways, new lighting, extensive seating and a new timber viewing platform.
Other additions include seating walls that display a Lekwungen canoe paddle design, created by the City’s Indigenous Artist-in-Residence, Dylan Thomas, as well as 55 new trees and 55 species of indigenous plants.
The City of Victoria says the newly expanded area will allow people to connect with Lekwungen art and culture while offering places to relax, gather and connect with nature.
“This spectacular waterfront park increases the visibility of Lekwungen identity and honours the homelands of the Lekwungen people,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “Through the collaborative design of this important site, we are taking further steps on the path of reconciliation and our shared future. We deeply appreciate the time that the Lekwungen language team has put into this project.”
“This expansion will continue to serve our community and provide a safe environment in which our people are valued, respected and cared for. Every step towards reconciliation in our city is vital,” said Songhees First Nation Chief Ron Sam.
The park is located at the site of the former Songhees Village and Reserve, before its residents were forced to leave in 1911.
It is also the first park to be developed in partnership with the City of Victoria and the Songhees Nation.
“Songhees Nation is pleased to be working with the City of Victoria on the expansion of Songhees Park as another step toward reconciliation,” Sam said. “Not only will the initiative provide a culturally safe and supportive sanctuary for the Lekwungen community, it will also raise awareness of our Nation’s identity by reclaiming our historically significant spaces.”
Mayor Helps said the experience working together has been so good that every new park project in the city going forward will have similar processes, drawing from the thousands of years of wisdom from the Lekwungen people.
Songhees Park is considered a key connection point in the city’s active transportation network, linking the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, the E&N Rail Trail, the Songhees Walkway and the Johnson Street Bridge.