A FRIENDS LEGACY – Twenty five years ago the Friends of John Dean Park achieved the sixth and most recent addition to John Dean Provincial Park, Alec Road to Dean Park.
The 66.9 acre West Block addition was the upper/eastern portion of a 132 acre Crown Grant that Jacob Hunter Todd received on February 1, 1884 (S1, R2W, NS). This property is the only waterfront Crown Grant, that a portion of was added to John Dean Provincial Park.
Shortly afterwards on March 26, 1884, Todd conveyed the property to Charles Jones. Others owned the property until when on April 2, 1912, Frederick Bernard Pemberton and Ada Georgian Beaven, purchased the property and subdivided the upper/eastern 66.5 acres into Lots 1 & 2, that stretched from the Old West Road (Alec) to Dean Park. Through the years they sold various lower properties, and made several attempts to sell Lots 1 & 2; however 1938 being an era where few had money, and after many attempts to sell, they forfeited their 66.5 acres to the province as $448.74 ($7,500 based on 3.5% annual inflation) was overdue in property taxes.
In 1912, John Dean was busy in the Victoria area selling real estate. Considering he already had his first cabin he might have been interested, however the property was likely privately sold. By 1938 he had already donated Dean Park, and the park/cabin road access was under construction; Dean’s attention had turned towards his home in Esquimalt, Seascape.
In 1954, the provincial Department of Lands and Forests resurveyed the two lots. The boundary lines and lot sizes were re-established as: Lot 1, 16.6 acres; Lot 2, 50.3 acres; and four pins were placed along Alec Road. The total acreage was changed from 66.5 to 66.9 acres. And on June 2, 1954, the Assistant Chief Engineer, Department of Public Works approved Plan 10164; and it was deposited at the Land Registry.
In 1957, parks planners from the new Ministry of Recreation and Conservation approached the Department of Lands and Forests with the idea/request to add some of its vacant Alec Road land to John Dean Park. Their reasoning for reclassifying an area of land for park was: (1) to add to its recreational value; and (2) to provide a buffer zone against logging and development. On March 20, 1962, the province designated the upper 20 acres as “Map Reserve”, which meant that it was Crown Land reserved for future park purposes (the easterly 660’of Lot 2, S1, R2W, NS).
This Map Reserve appeared on many reports as 20 acres that was added to the park; however the designation didn’t communicate with Land Titles, so technically it was not added. This Map Reserve stretched westward from John Dean’s west boundary down 660’ to a shelf, and protected an amazing area of mostly steep slopes with arbutus tress. The reasoning behind the BC Forest Service retaining the Crown land was that camping had been restricted within the provincial park, and planners needed to have the future option available to create a Forest Service campground.
Moving forward to 1986, the local community was uniting against a proposed reservoir within the park, and the Friends membership soared to over 300 members. Long-time residents and early members of the Friends, Ted and Gwen Greenwood were the first to suggest the idea of adding the Crown land to the park. The executive responded by creating a petition which asked the province to transfer the Alec Road Crown land to Class A provincial park. Jo Doman coordinated the petition sheets and 4,351 signatures were collected by dozens of members. During this time, Ted and Gwen Greenwood and Edo Nyland surveyed a new west-side trail route that followed the contours from Alec Road up into the park.
BC Parks Regional Planner, J. Morris; District Manager, D. Carruthers; and Zone Supervisor, W. Shaw – authorized the new trail construction and suggested the name Mountain Trail. Between January and May of 1988, twenty plus regular volunteers constructed this new west-side trail to bridle standards. Ted guided the lower crew, and Edo the upper; they met near where the winter stream crosses the trail, near John Dean’s west line. Because it was generally known as a bridle trail, Jo Doman suggested the name Merrill Harrop Trail.
On May 21, 1988, the Friends hosted a spring picnic held in the old picnic site. A hundred residents, and the local MLA, who was the current Minister of Parks, Dr. Terry Huberts attended. On behalf of the Friends, Edo Nyland presented Dr. Huberts with the 4,351 signature petition. And to surprise and honour a long-time resident, a dedication trail sign was unveiled “Merrill Harrop Trail – 20 min.”
For years Harrop had taught the skills of horse-riding to youth at his ranch along West Saanich Road, and in 1978 he published a book: Schooling the Young Horse. Because he was well known, he easily gathered hundreds of petition signatures from the farming community.
About a year later, during one of my first visits to the Nyland home, Edo received a letter that affirmed the land addition was approved and proceeding! It was the mixture of a cleaned up park, new trails and this land addition that inspired my park maintaining interests. And during the summer of 1989, Edo, this author with several regulars constructed the north-side Slektain Trail; when we learnt of the date August 10th, we checked and sure enough we were on the Slektain that day.
From the provinces news release dated August 8, 1989: “A 70-year-old forest with snags which attract woodpeckers and rare wildflowers has been added to John Dean Park, on southern Vancouver Island.” Thanks to the leadership of Dr. Terry Huberts, on August 10, 1989, Order in Council No. 1184, was approved which added: Lots 1 & 2, S1, R2W, NS; 27.1 ha (66.9 acres) to the provincial park. The then Lieutenant Governor, David Lam, ordered that all boundaries within the park be eliminated, and the whole park reissued as a single property: Class A provincial park.
Alec Road was the original West Saanich Highway and provided early access onto the mountain. Today, the lower Mountain/Merrill Harrop Trailhead serves as the parks West Entrance, and parking is available along the road and north of the trailhead. The trail runs through the West Block and through the contours of a third generation forest. This area was first horse logged in the 1920s, and tractor logged in the late-1930s. It’s also possible that residents drove into and removed some trees for personal consumption up until the mid-1970s, until when the whole area grew in. If you look closely, evidence of three tractor skid routes can be seen on the forest floor. The lower 50% travels through the 1989, 66.9 acre addition; the mid-part explores the 1962 Map Reserve; and the upper quarter explores the northwest corner of John Dean’s property. The park’s West Block is an amazing space: a mountain forest slope, trees, birds, with interesting beams of sunshine!
STEWARDSHIP – In October of 1993, Edo Nyland and this author followed the parks south line from Alec Road up to the West Viewpoint. Near the bottom we found a huge patch of ivy covering the ground and up every tree. We returned a week later to cut the major vines, and to at least force a delay in its spreading. However we knew the ivy removal priority was Illahie. In 2010, it was my great honour to return and to whip-out that ivy patch. Future volunteers will need to conduct cross country ivy monitoring; initial action and long-term follow-up will be needed to ensure the park remains ivy-free…
LEGACY MERITS w/thanks
TED & GWEN GREENWOOD – They were the first residents to suggest the land addition idea; they surveyed the proposed route (1987), and coordinated the trails construction (1988).
EDO NYLAND – Founder and president of the Friends of John Dean Park (1984-90) & (1996-2000); Nyland coordinated the land addition campaign, the west-side trail construction, and acquired the most petition signatures (1987-88).
JO DOMAN – Founder and director of the Friends of John Dean Park (1984-99); Jo planned and facilitated the land addition petition. Active within the equestrian community, Jo encouraged a west-side bridle route, and proposed the name Merrill Harrop Trail.
Dr. TERRY HUBERTS, Minister of State for Vancouver Island/Coast and North Coast, Responsible for Parks (1988-89), MLA for Saanich and the Islands. – Dr. Huberts was instrumental in bringing to fruition this land addition to John Dean Provincial Park.