Creek signs fail to please

This time Oak Bay won’t be asserting that it’s different.

Victoria and Saanich approved erecting signs that identify Bowker Creek. However, Oak Bay councillors didn’t like the graphic design of the signs. They expressed a desire for smaller, more discreet signs that depict elements of Oak Bay, such as oak trees and arts and craft houses.

Friends of Bowker Creek President Ian Graeme urged councillors to reconsider at a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting.

The signs were developed and recommended by the Bowker Creek Initiative – a partnership that includes staff representatives from Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria, Capital Regional District, University of Victoria, Friends of Bowker Creek and other community organizations within the watershed.

The three-year-old initiative aims to create signage for each municipality, develop an inter-municipal drainage plan, increase watershed awareness and research restoration projects.

Graeme stressed that because Bowker Creek and its watershed spans three municipalities, a collective sign signature is important to ensure a consistent message.

In response to councillors’ concerns about the graphic elements of the sign, Graeme explained the creek, wildlife, dragonfly, homes and apartments reflect and acknowledge the creek’s distinctively urban context and contribution to healthy communities.

“As we have seen, water doesn’t know any boundaries,” Graeme said. “If we are going to be successful at solving issues like flooding and pollution, then our approach needs to be integrated.”

Graeme also explained that most residents do not know that Bowker Creek has “substantial issues” with pollution, coliform counts, and other public health issues.

The signs aim to increase residents’ appreciation for the creek, along with awareness about the watershed and its impact on marine life, he added.

Coun. Allan Cassidy expressed his support for the signs, but not for uniformity.

“I don’t agree that a sign in Oak Bay has to be identical to a sign at UVic. I don’t think people pick up on that so much,” he said.

Cassidy said he was disappointed the application to erect the signs came to Oak Bay “at the 11th hour,” after Saanich and Victoria had approved the design.

“It is unfortunate that this comes down to esthetics,” Cassidy said.

“Esthetics are in the eyes of the beholder,” Coun. Nils Jensen said.

Integral to the sign’s message, Jensen explained, is that Oak Bay is a part of the other communities and not isolated in our portion of the watershed.

Council voted to approve the signs.

The Provincial Capital Commission greenways grant provided funding for the signs. Each participating municipality will foot the bill for sign installation.


The Bowker Creek watershed extends from the University of Victoria north through Saanich and Victoria, past Oak Bay High School and empties into Oak Bay near the Glenlyon-Norfolk school.

The creek is named after John Sylvester Bowker, an American whose Oak Bay farm bordered the creek in the 1860s.

Bowker Creek once supported populations of coho salmon and cutthroat trout before it was altered due to agriculture in the 1800s and later residential, commercial and institutional development.

As the watershed became increasingly urbanized, the majority of the original creek channel was altered or enclosed in underground pipes. Approximately 2.5 kilometres of creek is still above ground today.

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