Wya Point—a dream to rival Wickaninnish

UCLUELET, BC—Wya Point has been a vision of the Ucluth community for half a century and, now, it is becoming a reality.

Lodge with house post at Wya Point.

Lodge with house post at Wya Point.

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UCLUELET, BC—It’s been a vision of the Ucluth community for 50 or 60 years, and now the vision is becoming a reality. The Ucluelet First Nation started in 2008 with a master plan for the 600-hectare property on the west coast of Vancouver Island near Ucluelet, on the other side of Long Beach from Tofino, which boasts the renowned Wickaninnish Inn.

“We have approximately 15 kilometres of coast, with five small pocket beaches, the longest one kilometre,” says Trevor Jones, CEO of the Ucluth Development Corporation since 2008. “This is unique to the area, which is not known for its beaches. There’s nice white sand, cobbly sand and black sand beaches. We want to show, host and provide guests with an experience similar to Tofino,” he told CLN.

Ucluth Development Corp. is responsible for creating economic development opportunities for the government of the Ucluelet First Nation, focusing on sustainable development in their treaty settlement lands. The master plan set out objectives for development of the property: it must be community-focused, eco-friendly and promote First Nations culture.

Jones expects full build-out of the property to take 10 to 15 years. At this stage, the band is halfway through a five-phase program. The first phase cost $2.5 million, and included building a campsite and 15 yurts—domed canvas tents with comfortable beds, futons and gas fireplaces. The floors are tongue-and-groove made from local milled cedar. Each yurt has French doors and a veranda leading down to its own private beach. Rates for camping are $27-$60 per night, while yurts go for $125-$175 a night depending on the size, amenities and time of year.

There is a common bathhouse in “a beautiful, off-grid cedar building.” Jones describes the surroundings as “1,000 to 1,200-year-old forest, similar to Cathedral Grove.”

This summer, they constructed four 650 to 2,000-square-foot post and beam lodges as part of Phase 2, which is expected to cost $3.8 million. Another five lodges will be opening late this month.

The lodges are located in an ancient village site one kilometre from Ucluth Beach. Every lodge has its own house post (similar to a totem pole) carved by Clifford George, a local, traditionally trained wood carver.
In a special deal that runs  until April, rates for a one-bedroom lodge that sleeps four are $175 per night, and two bedroom units go for $275 per night—about half the cost of regular rates.

Foodservice currently consists of the Kwisitis Feast House located on the beach, with expansive views of Long Beach. The Feast House offers food with a First Nation flair, including seasonal items, seafood, deerburgers and elk. They cater for special events, and bring meals down to the lodges between mid-March and the end of December. The restaurant opened under its current management last summer. Chef Ken Furey was hired to work with sous chefs from the community and develop their culinary skills.

Next steps

Next comes the most ambitious and costly part of the plan; Phase 3 calls for a 70-room hotel with an estimated cost of $12 million.

“It will be a boutique hotel that will compete with Wickaninnish Inn,” said Jones. “I think there’s room in the marketplace for another five-plus-star hotel that will rival anything on the coast, with two private beaches.”
Jones added that they would like to start construction in 2014 and are talking to a couple of different investment groups. “We would like to see the same architecture and cultural lines,” he noted.

Phase 4 is a restaurant and spa with a projected cost of $5 million, and the final phase would be a conference centre to accommodate 600-700 people at an estimated cost of $8 million.

“It’s more than just economic development,” said Jones. “It gives us pride at our membership level—a feeling of accomplishment. It’s been just a pipe dream for many years. In 2010, we became self-governing—it’s all been really positive.”