New visitor amenities at Nitinaht will bring employment, skills training to community

Karly Blats, June 13, 2019

For years Nitinaht Lake has attracted a core group of kiteboarders each summer, but a development from the Ditidaht First Nation to double the size of the campground at the site aims to draw more families. (Eric Plummer photo)

Nitinaht Lake, BC — 

New visitor recreation amenities are being developed at Nitinaht Lake—a world renowned destination for windsurfers and kite borders—that will integrate employment and skill training opportunities for Ditidaht First Nation members.

Developed by the Ditidaht First Nation with a total budget of $1.2 million, the Caycuse Recreation Site project has been awarded $237,000 in funding from the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET).

The Caycuse Recreation Site project will feature new facilities which include 52 new campsites and related cultural tourism elements. The project will also include the development of 5.1 kilometres of hiking trail access to the Looper Creek Canyon, a unique cave system characterized by limestone karsts and watery narrows that has potential to gain regional and provincial recognition.

The Ditidaht First Nation host the third entrance to the West Coast Trail and thousands of hikers use the route each year.

Bryan Cofsky, Ditidaht Development Corporation CEO, said plans are to add about 40 campsites this season and 12 to 20 next season. He said windsurfers, kiteboarders and West Coast trail hiking enthusiasts have historically been the target market at Nitinaht Lake.

“The windsurf park is very established, it’s got a very set group of windsurfers and kiteboarders who go there on an annual basis,” Cofsky said. “The Caycuse portion of it is going to be more family-oriented with trailers and larger units.”

Cofsky said construction will happen through summer and into winter as long as the weather holds up.

The new visitor amenities are designed to draw broader and more family-based markets into the area, supporting the development of new businesses, services and sustainable employment opportunities for rural community members, added Cofsky.

Doubling the size of the campground will bring in new employment and skill training opportunities for the community.

“In the past few years we have seen a growing trend in the development of remote Indigenous tourism hubs in several parts of the Island and Coastal region,” said ICET Chair Josie Osborne in a press release. “Visitors are seeking authentic experiences and are interested to learn directly from Indigenous communities and tourism operators about their territories and culture. The Ditidaht First Nation is creating opportunities to do just that.”

The release also states that an economic analysis of the project demonstrates that three to five years post-completion, the additional campsites, trails, and related activity will generate an additional $775,000 of tourism spending per year, leading to 4.9 permanent new jobs. During the six-month construction phase, 14 temporary full-time equivalent jobs will be created.

“It’s economic development, it will pull money in and not only just to the person tasked with running (the site) but with our local businesses, motel, store, coffee shop and gas station,” said Ditidaht First Nation Chief Robert Joseph. 

Joseph said Ditidaht have long-term aspirations for the area, defined in the First Nation’s “Unleashing the Nitinaht” plan, a tourism initiative to transform Nitinaht into a world-class tourism destination.

“The project will enable us to build on our existing expertise in cultural recreation and trail management, and serve as a stepping stone to attract new visitor markets while continuing to build our vision where we are leaders of change, not recipients,” said Joseph.

He added that the new development will create more employment opportunities for small businesses like food vendors.

“There’s [a food vendor] down at the campground already and that can get bigger,” Joseph said. “The more people that are there the better.”