Reeson Park is a mess. Every night, the park is filled with a mixture of vagabonds and criminals, activists and agitators. Every morning, scarce police resources are expended to ensure the tents come down. Tensions with neighbours are rising.
This public disorder can be traced to the dissolution of the Provincial Capital Commission by the BC Liberal government. Say what you will about the PCC, but they had clear signage prohibiting anyone from being in the park at night. Let alone tents.
This latest disaster reminds us of the words of the Honourable Mr. Justice R. D. Wilson. In Provincial Capital Commission v. Johnston et al, 2005 BCSC 1397, he wrote:
 If I understand the speakers correctly, the notion of “tent cities” has entered the lexicon of social discourse. It is a phenomenon for political lobbying.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Look at the February 2014 media release from the BC government:
The four inner harbour properties given to the City are key to inner harbour revitalization and advancing a planned 5 km harbour pathway from Rock Bay to Ogden Point.
Three years has passed since this press release came out. Is this what the provincial government intended when it transferred Reeson Park to the City of Victoria? Is this what “revitalization” looks like?
The status quo dishonours the memory of Gordon Reeson, a person who built hundreds of rental units within the City of Victoria. Here are excerpts from his obituary in the November 17, 2002 edition of the Times-Colonist newspaper:
Gordon Stanley Reeson, a major figure in Victoria’s development industry in the 1960s and 1970s, has died in Arizona.
Born in Winnipeg in 1923, Reeson was a developer in Regina before moving to the West Coast in the 1960s.
His friend, former mayor Peter Pollen, said Reeson retired here from the Prairies, but within three months was busy again with building projects.
With partner Harvey Pinch, he built Fernwood Manor on Begbie Street with 210 apartments. On opening day in the late 1960s, it was the largest apartment building on Vancouver Island.
They put up other major rental projects in city neighbourhoods, including some in James Bay.
Pollen described him as a quiet businessman with tremendous drive who stayed out of the political backrooms and got things done.
Reeson was part of a generation of developers in Victoria’s building boom in those decades, said Denford, who was also starting to put up apartments then.
“They were on a much bigger scale than me,” Denford said.
Reeson is remembered here for Reeson Park, a half-acre on the Victoria waterfront at the bottom of Yates Street. Pollen and Reeson bought the property and donated it for a park in 1980.
I avoided quoting too much of the article as a nod to fair use. But the parts I snipped reflected well on Mr. Reeson’s character. He was generous. His colleagues and employees liked him. He helped build this city.
The bottom line? Reeson Park is a pocket park in the heart of Victoria. It should have been excluded from the Victoria’s overnight camping bylaw on the same day the property was transferred. To me it’s a no-brainer. And until that happens, I’m adding a new rule:
- Don’t buy property in the City of Victoria.
- Don’t donate property in the City of Victoria.