Posts Tagged ‘gabriola’

Huckleberry/Huxley/$100k Park



Part of the original trail constructed in 1988 at Huxley (Huckleberry) Park

   Although there is some controversy over the name and ownership, there is no doubt that this piece of land played an important part in the development of the ‘village’ of Gabriola.

  Originally the land where the park is now was part of a five acre parcel that included the spot where Folklife Village is today. That vacant and treed five acre parcel was for sale for about $25,000 and languished on the market for some time. The folks moving to Gabriola back in the late eighties were not interested in buying such expensive  land so close to ‘downtown’ when they could get five nice acres elsewhere on the island for less than $20k.

   When the proposal surfaced to relocate the ‘folklife pavilion’ from Expo ’86 to Gabriola Island and create a shopping center, that parcel of land became of interest, and the owner at the time – aware of the folklife proposal at hand – applied successfully to rezone her land from ‘rural residential’ to ‘commercial’.   Since the location was just about perfect for ‘folklife village’, the Island’s Trust agreed to the rezoning application.    Part of what sold  the rezoning deal was the requirement that a portion of the land be dedicated to the community as a park.    The deal was embraced by the overwhelming majority of islanders (there were half as many of us then),and the rezoning went ahead.  The commercially zoned land  then sold to the owners of Folklife, who paid $137,000 for their portion.  The island watched with glee as the project got underway to create what is now the focal point of Gabriola’s village community. 

   To develop the park, an unemployed local man put together a complex funding application that saw the provincial government grant him a large sum to spend on employing islanders to improve local provincial parkland.   Along with work at Twin Beaches Park and Drumbeg,  the project included establishing the  new downtown park.  It included a small clearing for parking, a walking trail, and a horseshoe pitch(since destroyed by a careless equipment operator when the tennis courts were established a couple of years later).  The crew of a dozen local workers spent six months on the projects – most of the work done by hand.  

    The recreation commission of the day was overseeing the project, and asked the hard-working crew to select a name for the new park.   Not only did the workers select a name that represented the natural vegetation, but they created a large sign welcoming the public to ‘Huckleberry Park’.   Then things got ugly. Infighting and politics  saw the name changed to reflect the name of the person ( a  rec commission member) who had sold the land – and made a tidy sum in the process.    The  ’Huckleberry Park’ sign promptly disappeared and the ‘politically correct’ one was installed.    Perhaps “One Hundred Thousand Dollar Park” would have been a better name, considering the benefits accrued by the ’generous’ donor.   

the big old huckleberry bush by the parking lot at the park

The Huckleberry bush that inspired the original name of the park over 20 years ago still thrives here. Huxley has long since left the island.


03 2010