Features & Images » Travel

Travel: West Coast changes and challenges

Ucluelet charts dynamic, familiar course for island community


By Margo Malcolm & Jamie Gripich

On the west coast of Vancouver Island, change is as constant as the tide. Over the last 25 years changes and challenges have hit small west coast communities as relentless as the waves beating its shore. The District of Ucluelet has been meeting repeated challenges, rolling with the curl and celebrating “life on the edge.” Ucluelet, recently granted official Resort Community status, is a town on the move and planning further ahead than ever before.


Forests for the Community

The realignment of the logging industry in the 1990s had a big impact on Ucluelet, whose roots are as a logging and fishing village. Hundreds of family-supporting jobs were lost, yet a large part of the local economy still relied on the forest as a vital part of its economy, and will continue to in the future.

The community is working on a joint application with its neighbour, the Toquaht First Nation, for a Community Forest designation from the provincial Ministry of Forests. This designation will give the community and First Nation land use control of local forests. It not only allows for harvesting of trees, but also other long-term sustainable forest activities, including value-added milling and possibly even small scale hydro-electric projects.

"The Community Forest is a great way to go," says Dianne St. Jacques, Ucluelet's Mayor. "We're pretty excited about the Community Forest and partnering with the Toquaht First Nation. We're both looking for economic benefits from the forest."

In November 2007, the Toquaht, along with four other area bands, finalized and accepted the historic Ma'nulth Treaty with the Provincial Government. Ucluelet is in the process of meeting community to community with the bands to discuss joint land use planning for the whole Ucluth Peninsula.

"It's a whole new chapter in life for all of us out here," says St. Jacques. "There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the process, but we look forward to working through the unknowns with our neighbours."


High Praise for Small Community

This holistic approach to planning has gained favourable recognition for Ucluelet outside of its borders. In February the district received the Vancouver Island Economic Developer's Association (VIEDA) inaugural "Prestige Award" award. That followed on the heels of Ucluelet being selected as one of 14 communities selected in the Community Action on Energy and Emissions (CAEE) Program for their conservation practices. And this year the town also received the Premier's Award for Innovation for their Bear Smart Program.