By Ted Ross
Photos by Bob Tuomi

Holland Point Park was designated in July, 1947. The area had been leased from the City of Victoria by the Department of National Defense during World War II and was returned to the city in 1945. "The Parks Committee will recommend to the City Council that the waterfront property south of Dallas Road between Douglas Street and the seawall west of Lewis Street be dedicated as a park, to be called Holland Point Park," was the proposal which led to the Park's creation with by-law 3293 in the summer of 1947.

According to Janis Ringuette, in an appendix to her Beacon Hill Park History, "In 1949 Dallas Road home owners began a campaign to 'beautify' Holland Point. Their main concern was clearing vegetation which blocked their views of the ocean." The debate continued between those in favour and those opposed to clearing for the next thirteen years.

In 1952 Claude Harrison was the new mayor of Victoria, and in Ringuette's words, "...offered a very different proposal for Holland Point Park." His plan to plant the area with native plants of all types never flourished, but a second idea, to build a model boat pond, did.

A paragraph, on page 14 of the City's Annual Report for 1955, reads, "During 1954 and 1955, the City received $100,000.00 from the Provincial Government for civic beautification. Most of this money was spent on roadwork, parking bays, and the installation of a model yacht pool."

The Report of the Park Administrator - October 1955 states, "Holland Point: The Public Works Department completed the construction of the pool and work is now proceeding on the landscaping around the pool."

Writing in 1999 Ann Lockley denotes, "Measuring 80 meters by 30 meters, Harrison Yacht Pond sits at the bottom of Government Street on Dallas Road, nestled in a semicircle of conifer trees." The winds around Holland Point provide good propulsion for model sailing craft on the pond.

After its construction as a place to sail model boats, the model sailors seemed to forget about the sport. The pond became populated with ducks.

Occasionally mention of the pool appeared in the newspapers. On January 21, 1961 The Daily Colonist reported, "As most of the world was watching Laos, so is City Hall nervously looking toward Holland Point model yacht pool."

"There, earlier this week, the model sailboat enthusiasts appeared to be put in a position to smirk when police, on the complaint of a nearby resident, asked two model powerboat yachtsmen to pick up their boats powered by model-airplane engines and move on. Mayor Percy Scurrah at first said there had been no idea of powerboats being used when the Capital Improvement District Commission built the pool and council would have to decide if they were allowable."

"But former mayor Claude L Harrison said there had been no idea of restrictions, and yesterday Mayor Scurrah backed off a bit as warfare threatened."

The dispute between power and sail continued, and ducks came into the equation.

By 1962 Parks Administrator, WH Warren was speaking against the removal of any trees on Dallas Road and Holland Point. He recommended, "...that the trees and bush be preserved in their natural state."

On July 20, 1972 the Parks and Recreation Services Committee recommended a, "Policy - Model Yacht Pond - Holland Point:

(a)  All types of model boats be allowed to use the model yacht pond;

(b)  Motor-driven models be restricted to a length not to exceed 30 inches. It is felt that models exceeding 30 inches may pose undue hazard to smaller models utilizing this facility; and

(c)  Model boats powered by internal combustion engines be restricted from using the pond during the months of April, May and the first two weeks of June, on the condition that such a restriction may be lifted if the resident duck population is able to find a more convenient location."

In an article in The Victoria Star from September 9, 1992, twenty years later, we read, "Model ship enthusiasts are in a flap about the use of a Dallas Road pool."

"They say the yachting pond, as it's called, was dedicated to the use of model boating by Mayor Claude Harrison in the 1950s but that the public has forgotten about the dedication."

"'We even get people calling this a duck pond,' says Ron Armstrong, a member of the Victoria Model Shipbuilding Society, 'And the problem is people come to feed the ducks. Birds congregate there and mess the water. Bird feathers, and the kind of goo birds leave behind, foul our propellers.' "

"'We want this dedicated to our use, and in more than a symbolic way,' Armstrong told the Star on Friday. 'An expression of that would be keeping the water cleaned up, and erecting a small plaque. What the plaque does is serve notice that this is a model boat pond, not a duck pond...There are other, larger, better places to feed birds.' "

Ann Lockley relates, "Nearly three decades later, the ducks have to share the pond with boaters more frequently than ever before. The Victoria Model Shipbuilding Society uses the pond almost every Sunday for practice, and in doing so, has taken the basin under their wing. In 1998, the VMSS had a plaque erected which reads, 'Dedicated in 1953 (sic) by Mayor Claude Harrison for the fun and enjoyment of model boating, Victorians and visitors alike.' The ducks do not seem to mind the boats or their captains, or that the pond is cleaner - just do not ask the modelers what they think of all the duck poo!"

Ron Armstrong of the VMSS, in an article in the Times-Colonist magazine, The Islander, July 23, 2000, notes, “The idea originated with the Optimist Club, which in the ‘50s sponsored model boatbuilding classes by Stan Jarvis. Needing a place to sail the boats, the club approached Victoria Mayor Claude Harrison with a proposal for a simple pond. In 1947 the untended strip between Douglas and Boyd Streets, including Holland Point, had been added to the park with Bylaw #3293.

“In March 1954 the Parks Department graded and seeded an area beside the point. Later, council applied for and received a capital improvement grant of $100,000 from the Provincial Government. A year later the Parks and Public Works Departments designed and constructed the Holland Point sailing pond. In October 1955 the pond was finished and adjacent landscaping begun.”

“Model boaters happily sailed a variety of wooden sloops, large and small, on the new facility. Radio control still being in its infancy, these craft were guided by wind and pre-set rudder to fetch up against the concrete shores.

“Use of Harrison Yacht Pond by model boaters gradually declined over the next 30 years. This led to increasing numbers of ducks, despite more suitable lakes nearby.

“By 1990 model boaters began returning in strength, most with the Victoria Model Shipbuilding Society. Radio control and other electronic functions were now affordable, reliable and lightweight. This enabled club members to operate a great variety of scale replica ships and racing sailboats.

“Waterfowl continues to have a special meaning for the operators. Bird feathers can stall propellers and paddlewheels and excrement mars the walkway and floating markers. Fortunately the Victoria Parks Department has for many years drained, cleaned and refilled the pond to keep the water navigable.”

Today the yacht pond continues to be used by VMSS Sunday mornings. Every kind of model craft from tug boats to fish boats to naval craft to fully-rigged sailing ships will be found sailing on Harrison Pond. There is even a model crocodile which sails sinuously around the pool terrifying small dogs along the edge. The plaque has been corrected to ‘1956’ and stands by the walkway as you arrive at the pond.

VMSS now has 60 members with Jim Cox as president. This is from a beginning of six members in 1978. They work with both power and sail. Power today is electric, quieter than gasoline. Sailing models are wind-powered. Sails and motors are operated with radio controls by operators on the shore.

Some members form the ‘Langford Navy’ on Wednesday mornings, and others race sailboats with deeper keels at Beaver Lake on the first and third Sunday of each month. Armstrong tells us, “The International One Meter class of sailboat needs at least one meter of clear water to float in, and the large racing courses needed are far too big for Harrison Pond.” So whichever venue you might choose, there is marvelous model ship sailing to watch, handled by members of the VMSS, and that crocodile at Harrison Pond is absolutely worth scrutiny! Information about the VMSS activities and events may be found at .



VMSS Activities, April 4, 2005, "Harrison's Folly," Ann Lockley, June 27, 1999; "Annual Report - 1955," City of Victoria; "Report of the Park Administrator - October 1955," W.H. Warren, November 2, 1955; "Yacht Pool Bid Rocks City Hall," Victoria Times, December 15, 1960; "Council Can't Escape Battle of Yacht Pond," Daily Colonist, January 25, 1961; "Policy - Model Yacht Pond - Holland Point," City of Victoria Legislative Committee, July 20, 1972; " 'Beautification' drastically alters Holland Point (1949, 1954, 1961-62)," Beacon Hill Park History - Appendix C-II, Janis Ringuette, 2005; Times Colonist Islander Magazine, July 23, 2000, “A Model Pond,” by Ron Armstrong; Jim Cox, President VMSS, pondside interview, March 27, 2016; Ron Armstrong, publicity, VMSS, pondside interview, April 17, 2016.