Thoughtful, Integrated Infrastructure and Climate Change

Yesterday afternoon I walked down Michigan Street, knocking on some doors to check that the residents hadn’t had their basements flooded out by the recent record-breaking rains. Those I spoke with were surprised to see me as I haven’t been the James Bay liaison for 3 years. They were delighted, however, to say that they haven’t had any flooding issues recently. In fact, they had hardly ever had to turn their sump pumps on since the flooding of 2006…15 years ago!

What created this change? The City, and the tremendous work of Parks and Engineering staff, converted a substandard soccer pitch at Fisherman’s Wharf Park into an enormous “rain-garden” and a more passive, but now incredibly well used, recreational space. This allowed the high water levels usually associated with Spring Tides and higher rainfall in January to drain more slowly, not becoming the destructive “run-off” we are now all too familiar with. Thankfully, it also worked with the recent downpours.

But that isn’t all the story. If the City had merely decommissioned a substandard soccer pitch that, incongruously, had an uphill half and a downhill half, there would have been an understandable outcry at the loss of recreational space. At the same time, however, Victoria, the Federal government, and a number of youth soccer associations had shared the cost for the all-weather soccer field at Topaz Park, in the Hillside-Quadra neighborhood. This addressed the critical loss of 33 playing days annually, caused by rainouts. With these playing opportunities secured, the re-purposing of the Fisherman’s Wharf playing field was seen as part of a “win-win-win” scenario.

This is but a small example of how thoughtful, integrated infrastructure can assist us all as we face the realities of Climate Change. In this instance, $600K from the Government of Canada, $400K from the City, $250K from the youth soccer associations (and a significant discount from the turf provider) allowed us to address an important facet of youth recreation. In turn, it allowed the City to create a vastly improved community amenity in a different neighborhood…and address the climate-related destruction that some folks on one street faced! In the long term, this also brought down the costs of clean-up that would be borne by the taxpayer! On my way home late yesterday afternoon, I passed by the Topaz Park fields and watched some young soccer players honing their skills on the pitch…I wonder if they understood that they were contributing to the protection of some homeowners in James Bay?

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