The provincial government has handed off a picturesque chunk of landscape to Ucluelet.
A roughly $3 million, 18.3-hectare, portion of land around Amphitrite point was officially granted to the district as a Crown land transfer this month.
“This land transfer will create new opportunities for Ucluelet, reinvigorating and diversifying their economy and helping preserve heritage landmarks that are a significant part of the community’s cultural identity,” added B.C.’s minister of Rural Economic Development Donna Barnett.
The gift includes the Amphitrite Lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper’s house, but not the former Coast Guard building, according to Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques.
St. Jacques told the Westerly News the district first asked for the land to be transferred during the Maa-nulth treaty negotiations in the mid-2000’s.
“It was during the time of treaty negotiations and the crown was purchasing a large tract of land inside the district of Ucluelet for the Ucluelet First Nation, which of course we were supportive of,” she said.
“The concern we had at the time, was that we would be losing that tract of land forever as far as our tax base goes…To help us as a municipality keep our economy and our budget where we need it to be, we requested that the amphitrite lands be granted to us. That was where that conversation began.”
She said the process has been arduous as initial lobbying efforts were made under the impression the land was federally owned but it was later discovered that it was owned by the province and leased to the federal government.
“It was super complicated,” she said.
She said the land will be zoned institutional, which means only things like schools or community gathering spaces would be allowed.
“We don’t have a specific plan. Part of the reason for that is because there’s so many opportunities as far as education goes,” she said. “Right now, I think, all of us are just enjoying the moment of thinking about all the possibilities.”
She noted several local groups have expressed interest over the years like a museum for the Ucluelet and Area Historical Society, a learning centre for the
Wild Pacific Trail society and a research centre to explore tidal and wave energy possibilities.
“There’s nothing in stone on the property, but there’s many, many, many, ideas,” she said. “We will have public input for sure.”
As the deal was reaching completion, St. Jacques was growing wary over the upcoming provincial election and the potential for a new government to start negotiations from scratch.
“There was a concern that it might not get completed before the election and I was really anxious to get it done before then because you just never know with an election the different direction that things might go,” she said.
“So, I was really, really thrilled that the people that were working on the file in Victoria were able to get it to cabinet…Everybody that’s been involved has certainly put their time in and finally they just really pushed it over the finish line before the writ dropped. It’s amazing. It’s such a gift to us.”