Sproat Lake Landing on a sunny day.

Photo Credit: Trip.com

New Tourists? No, Thank You

Sproat Lake Residents aren't ready to become the next Tofino

Residents say not everywhere needs to be developed

Just 20 minutes outside of Port Alberni, Sproat Lake is an idyllic and almost untouched piece of Canadiana. It’s the perfect place for a private getaway.

A sweet little weekend vacation spot for most, those who call it home enjoy the area year-round.

They have the pristine and undeveloped area almost to themselves, with the exception of Sproat Lake Resort.

They allow tourists to come to enjoy the area without the commitment, and as you can imagine, business has been pretty good.

The long-term neighbours and the resort have all existed pretty peacefully, but now the resort is ready to expand.

The rest of the town, though? They’re not so ready for their home to become a big tourist hot spot.

Development always comes in waves. Transition periods can be rocky, and long-term residents have no desire to ride this one out.

The big expansion in question? Fifteen cottages near the waterfront.

It may not sound like a lot. But it could amount to about 80 extra people in the area at any given time.

For a town with only one main road, this could have a heck of an impact on the way people currently live.

“When Sproat Lake Landing hosts larger events, our road is lined with parked vehicles, making the road narrow and down to single-lane traffic,” said a letter to the ACRD from Brian and Rita Sowden. “Common sense leads us to conclude that we would be dealing with this type of parking situation on a daily basis.”

Not to mention the impact it would have on the natural environment.

The proposed area of the property for the cottages is located between two riparian areas in a community watershed.

Chris Law is a Sproat Lake resident who is also manager of the nearby Alberni Valley Community Forest. According to him, the development could have a big impact.

“It’s not suitable for a large-scale commercial enterprise,” he told Alberni Valley News.

Coho salmon, he said, are already under pressure in the Weiner Creek system.

It’s a shallow bay, and boat traffic can make the water quality pretty bad. Extra tourists certainly aren’t going to help with this.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board needs amend both the zoning bylaw and Sproat Lake Official Community Plan (OCP) for the proposed expansion to take place. So far, the board has had a mixed response.

At the June 8th board meeting, Sproat Lake director Penny Cote made a motion to deny the application.

“I’ve thought long and hard about this and heard from the community quite strongly that they’re not in favour of this development moving forward,” she said at the time. “I support my community.”

However, Beaver Creek director John McNabb argued that the build would be a good investment for the area.

“Accommodations at the lake and all around the Valley are in short supply,” he said. “To restrict the development, where jobs are concerned and where investment is concerned, I think is inappropriate.”

Bob Beckett voted to support Cote in her motion, but the rest of the board wasn’t for it.

Board members Beckett, McNabb, and Tanya Shannon then voted in favour of the proposed application, while Cote and Bodnar voted against it.

Cote said after the vote that she was “very disappointed” by the decision.

“This is not your community, this is my community,” she said. “The residents of Sproat Lake know that area. And in that public hearing (in April), they let us know exactly how they felt about this, and it seems to me that the board is not listening.”

The proposed development is located within 800 metres of a controlled access highway. So the Ministry of Transportation will have to review and sign off on a new bylaw before its fourth and final reading.

The proposed amendments were scheduled to come back to the board on Wednesday, September 28th. But director Cote asked that the motion get deferred to make sure a petition from Sproat Lake residents could be properly addressed.

The motion has been deferred for a month.

We’ll update this as more info comes in.