By David Leff                                                                           Fisherman's Wharf Community Association

The Habour Pathway Plan was first approved in 2008. Latter renamed the David Foster Way in 2012 and now in the tradition of Victoria a full eight years later being implemented in 2016. The concept was to create a pathway from Barclay Point to Ogden Point dotted along the way with 11 special places. Heron Cove at Fisherman's Wharf was identified as one of those special places. Initial concepts included shoreline restoration, construction of intertidal pools, a bicycle and foot-path bridge and a ramp for Kayaks and small boats and finally seating for restful viewing. A full concept of the plan can be found at:

Photos by David Leff

Historically the Heron Cove was a natural ecological area for local and migrating birds and in 1923 the Victoria Habour region established our existing Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS). This was both a Federal and Provincial effort. Subsequently the area was fraught with man imposed negative pressures which included a boat launch and a region for chemically cleaning down fishing boats. Both activities have since been suspended and apparently decommissioned but the city further impacted the area adding silt to the cove with storm water drains. Recently with the improvements of the park a storm water management bed was created to reduce silt and outflow. The cove has been slowly recovering and many birds have returned. These include migratory swans and the ever fascinating oyster catchers to name a few. It is also home for herons and their nests, river otters, mink and swimming racoons. According to the GVHA in their Fisherman's Wharf Plan -2012 for the now approved rezoning of Fisherman's Wharf:

            "The City's policies identify the head of Heron Cove as an environmentally-sensitive area. The two homes fronting onto St. Lawrence St. north of the driveway entrance to Fisherman's Wharf are designated heritage."

The City has committed to preservation of the sensitive eco system and environmental groups at Fisherman's Wharf have initiated increasing habitats. In absence of any other interest groups here at Fisherman's Wharf we have taken on the role as stewards for Heron Cove. Heron Cove is potentially the only urban bird sanctuary available to view migrating birds within the city of Victoria. It is also on the road to recovery as a healthy ecological reserve. Its success is predicated upon the natural tidal bay with plenty of sea life and vegetation to attract these birds. In order to enhance the ocean floor current efforts include reef balls (artificial reef) which have been already purchased and are awaiting final federal approval before roll out. Furthermore, Fisherman's Wharf has been identified as a potential area for expansion of the herring egg habitats. Gorge Waterway, as well as Esquimalt Habour and historically Heron Cove, is also an important area for a rare species of oyster. The Olympia Oyster which is now valued for historic significance and its water filtration and habitat engineering roles in the ecosystem; there is intense interest in the rehabilitation of the species in the Pacific. Olympia Oysters are the only native species of oyster and discussions have been initiated to embark in an oyster bed reseeding and restoration program for Heron Cove.

In low tide hundreds of species of birds can be found feeding including migratory swans, heron, oyster catchers, and king fishers on the grounds. Redrock and dungeness crabs can be seen scouring the ocean floor. Plant life has increased dramatically and bull kelp is now being seen growing in the deeper waters. The region "has a total winter bird population of approximately 4200 birds, representing 21 species of waterbirds including gulls, cormorants, diving ducks, dabbling ducks, grebes, alcids (sea birds) and mergansers. Ninety percent of this population is concentrated in waters less than 11 m deep. Many of the species are winter residents; however, several species such as Pelagic Cormorants are year-round residents of the area."*


Lacking in design and planning is the honour of the lands to our Lekwungen Nation (Songhees First Nation) and its' people. This land was wholly utilized by our predecessors and the land should be honoured by them with respect and acknowledgement. The City has an opportunity to be a part of an important Ecosystem restoration and educational opportunity for locals and visitors in Heron Cove in order to enhance biodiversity and contribute to the efforts and interest of the local community.

 The City should educate, demonstrate, enhance and allow for observation of this natural ecosystem that despite human intervention continues to thrive. These are our some of our suggestions and recommendations for Heron Cove:

1. Do not proceed with a bridge at Heron Cove and instead invest in continued restoration of the natural habitat. Creatively define the walkway around the two heritage homes and provide proper signage. Place education boards explaining the ecosystem and identifying the types of wildlife and sea creatures found. Educate on the tidal flow and how this benefits wildlife. Provide impact assessments on how the natural habitat will be affected by the proposed changes. Demonstrate how traffic patterns will change and provide a study on the impact of traffic pattern changes at Fisherman`s Wharf.

2. If the bridge were to proceed create a walking bridge without disturbance to cove (i.e. no mid-section support). If mid support is deemed necessary we are calling upon the city to do its due diligence and perform an environmental impact study and assessment and provide a plan for how to mitigate habitat disturbances during and post construction. The existing bric- brac and silt bottom is said to encapsulate an environmental nightmare and disturbances to the sea bed could have catastrophic consequences to the natural environment. Enhance and help to rebuild the eco-system that exists and discourage disturbances to the ecosystem by reducing access to the water. Instead provide public access for kayaks etc from the road portion between the park and the Wharf on City owned property in the middle of Fisherman's Wharf (Between Dock C and D)

3. Eliminate terraced timber sundecks and allow rock area to remain as a natural animal habitat as well as native plant species. Perhaps even raise the platform as we have seen high waters and King tides nearly crest the existing plateau. Tall grasses could be used to partially shield the Bridge to allow for more privacy for the wildlife but still have opportunities for observation. Raising of the plateau will also give a shallower slope for those in wheelchairs, walkers or pushing of strollers entering the bridge. Care should be taken for reducing light pollution in order to not disturb the natural sleep patterns of the wildlife.

4. Eliminate stairs to rocky beach. These rocks are encrusted with live barnacles and refuge for sea stars, hermit crabs, and shrimp and crabs during low tide. There is no way of making safe the interaction with the natural environment without first destroying the very habitat you are trying to interact with. Significant concerns for safety and preventing harm to those who would now be invited by the city plan to walk onto the precarious and barnacle encrusted rockery.

We implore you to treat this area as an ecological reserve not a lunch and gathering area which is in direct conflict with the sensitive marine and bird environment. Lunching and direct access to the waters mean improper feeding of wildlife, waste thrown in the ocean, noise and disturbance of the natural environment. Already we have experienced issues with visitors feeding wildlife including geese, seals, river otters, pelicans and seagulls. These feedings can lead to expectations of the wildlife resulting in negative interactions. If carefully planned this ecological wonderland can be further enhanced and can be observed without disruption. Furthermore the area as it is used now is a retreat for workers and tourist looking for a quiet spot to take a break, photograph or paint or just read a book. That is what the community desires – a quiet reflective spot or contemplative zone in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the busy Fisherman's Wharf tourist area down on the docks.

Finally there is a direct conflict with the privacy of year round float home owners whose front yards (dock side) is already heavily frequented by tourist and you are now proposing that their backyard be turned into a public gathering space and lunch area focused towards them. With the proposed public access in low tide people will be within hand reach of some of those home owners back doors. Further conflicts include an unhealthy gathering area at night for homeless or youth drinking and carousing. These unwanted activities are already documented with regular frequency and the fear is an increase in these activities.

* “Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary”, Environment and Climate Change Canada