South Island seniors rally for vacant school field to be converted into accessible ‘oasis’

South Island seniors rally for vacant school field to be converted into accessible 'oasis'

A group of around 100 seniors rallied at the intersection of Hillside and Blanchard Street Tuesday morning calling for unused land to be built into a senior-friendly oasis.

“It’s just sitting here and we could make it something beautiful,” said Terry Dance-Bennik, who is 74 and lives in senior housing at Wellesley because she’s losing her eyesight.

Dance-Bennik says the field attached to S.J. Willis/Burnside School currently sits empty.

“Right now the school that’s currently using it is Vic High, but they don’t use this playing field. And this field has been empty for over a decade,” said Dance-Bennik

The group of around 100 seniors who gathered to rally Tuesday said they’re tired of seeing the space go unused.

They’re calling on the Greater Victoria School District (SD61), which owns the land, to allow them to transform it into a senior-friendly area.

“Topaz is great but it’s uphill and most people can’t do it,” said Dance-Bennik. “If we just had paved pathways that wheelchairs could use, it would be transformed, along with drought-resistant plants, a stage, Indigenous art – the possibilities are endless.”

Their vision is for shade trees, lots of benches to sit on, exercise tools and an undercover area.

“We’re not looking to change the title, we’re just looking to use the land,” said Anne Duggan, 85, who also lives in the Wellesley senior living building.

They say they’ve approached SD61 with their plan but haven’t heard back. SD61 says otherwise.

“District staff have canvassed their departments and have no record of an inquiry being made,” said SD61 manager of communications Lisa McPhail in a statement

“If a member of the public has a request for the Board relative to its land or land use, they are welcome to send official correspondence addressed to the Board of Education of School District No. 61 at [email protected]

This protest comes on the heels of B.C.’s seniors advocate’s most recent report which said seniors in B.C. Receive the lowest financial support in Canada.

“Many of us will be surprised to find that it could be argued that B.C. ranks the lowest of the 13 provinces and territories in terms of the financial support and subsidies it provides for its seniors,” said B.C. Seniors’ Advocate Isobel Mackenzie last Thursday.

“I think the assumption is we’re old we’re quiet we’re not capable of standing up for ourselves. Well, I’m a baby boomer so we’re going to say what we need,” said Dance-Bennik.

This group of seniors is adamant their access to greenspace shouldn’t also fall through the cracks.

They say they’ll be drafting a plan to pitch to new school board members and city councillors after the municipal election on Oct. 15.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!