Deering Island is part of the Southlands equestrian community and was developed in the late 1980s into the residential island that it is today. Deering’s history is varied – from Musqueum settlement to farming to BC Packers facility. In term of it’s more recent history, the entire region was pre-empted primarily for dairy farming between the 1860s and 1870s. The area was logged intensively in the 1880s. In 1893, the Celtic Cannery was built at the foot of what is now Balaclava Street. In 1902, fishing was big business, and the BC Packers company bought Deering Island (then known as Mud Island) and used it as part of their fish-packing business. In 1909, Deering Island and Celtic Islands were subdivided – the aim for which was to create a more formal village for fishing families. In terms of unique zoning, in 1955, the majority of the southlands neighbourhood was rezoned to RA-1 (Limited Agricultural District) to maintain its equestrian and limited agricultural nature. The minimal lot size was set at 2.25 acres. The area was protected with the creation of the BC Agricultural Land Reserve in 1973. Deering Island did not form part of this rezoning or ALR status and still retains its RS-1 zoning today.
In the mid-1980s, BC Packers decided to sell their property, which by that time was largely unused and Park Georgia Realty, a developer of the day, saluted the flag and set up a development that would create 37 waterfront homes, half of them with integrated moorage. To enhance the development, Deering Island Park was created on the west end of the island. It was very important to the then developers that the island not be built with walking trails along the frontage of the properties, a reality that current Deering Island owners enjoy today – it is an extremely private development.
The sheer infrastructure involved in constructing Deering Island in that era was immense – it required a commercial scale bridge (Deering Island Bridge), the entire island was “fortified” with riprap and raised to 12’ above the highest flood plain levels, and all of the utilities were undergrounded. These immense site costs, which today are taken for granted, almost made it so the development didn’t proceed. To say that Deering Island is unique in the City, the Province, and even the Country, would be an understatement.