The District of Sicamous is looking to bring camping back to the community with a 350-lot campsite by the Eagle River.
At their regular meeting last Wednesday, district council approved the submission of B.C. Rural Dividend funding application to the province for $100,000. The money, town manager Evan Parliament explained, would help pay for “soft costs” or studies to determine the feasibility of a public campground on private and public properties at and near 101Old Town Bay Road.
The site is comprised of “90 per cent river estuary and lake-front lands, on a combination of two private parcels (40 and 16 acres) and two Crown parcels (40 and 21 acres).
The proposed studies would involve looking at infrastructure (roads, paths, bridges cost and design, as well as electrical, water and waste water), archaeological and environmental assessments, legal agreements with land owners, a market assessment and project management.
Parliament said some funds have already been set aside for the studies which, in total are estimated to cost $128,310. The district would be responsible for everything over the $100,000 grant.
“(We’ve) got the support of the landowners, we’ve got the support of the Splatsin, we’ve already met with… several ministers on this project,” said Parliament.
An application package included with council’s agenda thoroughly details the district’s vision and expectations related to the sought-after campground. It explains how in the past, Sicamous was a “highly sought-after campground location” for vacationers. Over the last two decades, however, demand for lakefront property drove up land values.
“As a result, there has been a re-configuring of traditional campsites and low-cost cottages properties (often at the same property) into condominium developments and higher cost cottage developments,” says the district. ‘This has led to a significant loss in campsites exceeding 1000 sites.”
The district goes on to say that under current prices, the loss of 1,000 sites represents an annual revenue loss in excess of $3.2 million, and at least $5.6 million in direct expenditures.
“To rebuild the demand for summer and shoulder season visitor services, the DOS, in partnership with Splatsin, have both initiated campground development feasibility activities research,” says the district. “The Eagle River site, the top of two currently available sites, is expected to house 350 campsites, plus provide access to a natural park-like environment expanding the current 21-acre wildlife sanctuary to 70 acres of natural area and an extensive path system for non-motorized activities.
“The site will also provide a unique, canal like experience through the natural areas for human-powered watercraft each year during spring/summer high water. The addition of a 350-site campground will enable Sicamous and Splatsin to host significant spring, summer and fall events in the community.”
The district anticipates the campground will provide 10.9 full-time employment equivalents, “primarily seasonal jobs from May 1 to Sept. 15, but also extending from April 15 to Oct. 15, and says that its location, close to the district’s commercial core, will “support ‘visitor buzz’ that has been significantly reduced since the shift from campers to condo owner.”
The district says the project will further strengthen its relationship with the Splatsin, explaining a portion of the sought-after site, the Eagle Pass Reserve is included in the band’s land claim process.
“The process of consolidating the land for the project will return approximately eight acres of the original 75-acre reserve to Splatsin control,” says the district. “The project will enable Splatsin to conduct archaeology research on the consolidated site. The establishment of the campground area will also create a suitable site for a Splatsin Interpretive Centre.”
The district also proposes tying in to the “Rail Trail” project by trail and a pedestrian bridge crossing the Eagle River. And, with the construction of the Bruhn Bridge replacement, the district hopes to acquire rock that can be used in the campground’s development.
“A side benefit is the building of the new Bruhn Bridge (Highway #1 at Sicamous) requires a place to put 200,000 m3 of rock that will be removed from the approach that can all be used by the campground development, saving the Province $2 to $3 million, and saving the project an equal amount for a combined benefit of $5.5 million,” writes the district.