Sunday, 25 May 2014

Outerbridge Park

Parking, Wheelchair accessible trails
Dogs: on leash 

The first thing thay hits you when you get out of your car in the parking lot at Outerbridge Park on a late May day, is the smell of cottonwoods! That sweet smell that fills the air along with the fluff from the cottonwood seeds.

Outerbridge Park is one of Saanich's more recent park acquisitions, having been deeded to the municipality in 2005, and is a sanctuary of quiet serenity steps away from one of suburban Victoria's busier arterial roadways.  The park is approximately 3.8 hectares in size, with a main entrance off of Royal Oak Drive, and a secondary entrance off Blenkinsop Road.

The history

Joan Outerbridge began creating a bird sanctuary about 20 years ago, and we first encountered the property when my daughter Nicole was riding, and took over a "freelease" of a thoroughbred who was living in the barn on the Outerbridge Property (those of you with horse experience know I use the word "free" somewhat liberally ;)).

At that time, the area where the barn stands had some paddocks for the horses, but was well and truly fenced and gated off from the rest of the property - ostensibly to keep the deer out! The gate between the two sections of the property was only opened on those occasions when the gardeners helping Mrs. Outerbridge with the property came to fetch barrow-loads of composted horse manure.  All we knew at that time was that Mrs. Outerbridge was creating a bird sanctuary by buying up parcels of adjoining land as they came available, and was crazy about maintaining the flora to support bird habitat.  We were told leaving the gate open was a grave offense indeed!

Since those years it has been wonderful to see this little oasis turned into parkland accessible to the community at large.  The cultivated areas of the garden are being restored and enhanced through a contract with the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, and with each year, the gardens become a little more complete.  What has been especially fantastic about this space, is that Joan Outerbridge was able to see much of this progress.  She passed away a few months ago (February 2014), leaving a legion of people whose lives she touched through this little park.

Park highlights

Within the park, there is a figure 8 pathway that is wheelchair accessible through the more formal plantings, with a water feature, a small bridge over the pond, and some more formally planted beds. Towards the eastern side of the park, the landscape becomes more naturalized, with cottonwood trees, fir and some meadow that is being replanted with Garry Oak and Camas. Nesting boxes for birds are strategically placed throughout the park, and even on a rainy day, there are plenty of birds to see and hear.

The old barn structure still stands in the same location, but has been refurbished on the inside as a space for volunteers who help maintain the gardens.  The pathways continue through to the barn, but become a little steeper and rougher towards the Blenkinsop end of the park.

Dogs are welcome (on leash, and please pick up after them!), and on most days, you are likely to encounter a few other people taking a break and soaking in a little serenity.

(map location is approximate, there is clear signage to the parking lot and entrance)
Saanich Parks info for Outerbridge Park
Gardens at HCP, Outerbridge Park Memorial Walk

All images © 2014 Janice Mansfield