Coordinator Aaron Hamilton recently submitted the business plan for “Lake Cowichan Experiences

Coordinator Aaron Hamilton recently submitted the business plan for “Lake Cowichan Experiences

Local First Nations have big plans for waterfront

Proposed business, set to open within five years, would host canoe tours, rent watercraft and house a gift shop and cafe.

After gaining approval from Chief Cyril Livingstone last Tuesday (Feb. 17), the Lake Cowichan First Nations recently announced a new, ambitious project, set to begin this summer.

The project, tentatively titled “Lake Cowichan Experiences,” is organized into three phases. Having completed the business plan, the band is in the process of seeking funding from the federal government’s Aboriginal Affairs department. If funding is successful, operations manager Aaron Hamilton said the project could be completed as early as 2020.

The first phase of the project, which residents could see as early as June, will include the launch of a guided canoe tour pilot program, which would take tourists around the lake on replica canoes, showcasing First Nations history and culture. The full canoe tour program is planned to launch next summer and run annually from June 15 to early September.

“This summer will just be about getting our feet wet, and seeing how we can improve,” Hamilton said. “We’re hoping on taking local business owners, Chamber of Commerce people and others on test tours.”

The second and third phases of the project will include the construction of a building that will contain non-motorized watercraft rentals, a gift shop and a cafe, all overlooking Cowichan Lake from North Shore Road. Hamilton said that plans for a second public boat launch and marina are in the works as well, though a public meeting will be held before those plans are finalized.

“It’s going to be built on reserve land, on our land, but I still want the community to buy into the idea, I don’t want to catch anyone off-guard,” Hamilton said. “We’re not trying to be a direct competitor, the marina’s wait-list can include up to 30 people at times, so there’s clearly a need for another public marina. It couldn’t hurt to have another boat launch either, judging by how busy it gets in the summer.”

According to Hamilton, the first phase of the project will employ five to seven people. While the band will be looking to hire “their own,” its likely that they will need to look to Lake Cowichan or neighbouring Nations in order to hire a full staff.

Though the waterfront project has been in the plans since 2012, it marks the second project the Lake Cowichan First Nation has taken on this year, the first being the pole project set for Ts’uu baa-asatx Square. Hamilton referred to the two projects as a “catalyst” for the band’s future projects.

“I think Lake Cowichan is on the cusp of some huge developments,” he said. “We’re looking to do unique things in the community and we’re hoping to be a major player in our own territory.”

Meanwhile, residents can look forward to the continuation of the pole project in Ts’uu baa-asatx Square, with the rough carving of the pole set to begin in April.

Residents can aid in the rough carving in exchange for a no-minumum donation, which will be used to supplement the cost of materials and the artist.

Artist Ron Hamilon submitted his first design sketches for the pole earlier this month, and the project is estimated to be complete in late August.

The completion of the pole will be celebrated with a traditional ceremony, featuring the raising and blessing of the finished product.