Construction continues at Caycuse Recreation Site even though the campsite was closed to the public this summer due to COVID-19. (DEDC photo)
Development at the Caycuse Recreation site at Nitinaht Lake is well underway, with the campground upgrade now 80 per cent complete.
The site is a remote campground area on Ditidaht territory and adjacent to Nitinaht Lake—a world renowned destination for windsurfers and kite borders and the third access point to the West Coast Trail.
Originally, the campsite offered 65 sites and would operate at full capacity during high seasons, limiting tourists and development of new businesses.
With more than $200,000 in funding from the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET), the Ditidaht Economic Development Corporation (DEDC) is able to expand the entire recreation site by adding 52 more camping spots, a parking lot, a washroom with shower facilities, sewer treatment, water, electricity, waste facilities, signage and a 5.1 kilometre multi-use trail that links to the Looper Creek Canyon.
The campsite expansion took place in the summer of 2019. The restroom, trail and other works remain in progress, though slowed due to COVID-19.
According to the 2019/2020 ICET annual report, approximately five local jobs and 14 construction jobs were created to accommodate the upgrades at the recreation site.
“The Caycuse Camp is 80 per cent completed,” said Bryan Cofsky, DEDC CEO, “This fall to spring 2021 we will be upgrading the windsurf park side by providing new washrooms, proper fire rings, tables and bring in a refuse/recycling program.”
Cofsky said the campground was closed to the public over the summer due to COVID-19 but construction continued at the site.
Being closed during tourist season, Cofsky said the DEDC utilized their income from the 2019-2020 season (an estimated $200,000) for work at the recreation site.
“Island Coastal Economic Trust and WorkBC (Job Creation Partnership) has allowed us to keep the work going with subsidies and grants. We have also utilized the CEWS (Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy),” Cofsky said.
Cofsky said the campground expansion helped the 2019 tourist season see a 60 per cent increase in occupancy and revenue over the previous year but it has also “brought an abundance of visitors to the area this summer when there was no access, so security and signage was needed to prevent entry into the community.”
It is ultimately up to the community to decide whether or not the campground opens for the 2021 season, Cofsky said.
“Looking at the 2020 season elsewhere, there weren’t any campsite outbreaks, so if necessary we will keep the grounds open for Canadian residents only,” he said.
Once open to the public again, total spending to the area is expected to rise to $62 per day, per visitor.
The annual report projects the improved amenities at Caycuse will expand the visitor market to include families and day-users, anticipated to be upwards of 5,000 people per year.
New entrepreneurial activities within the community have already begun, including selling artisanal wares at the beach, providing guided tours and consigning First Nation branded t-shirts at the local store.
As Caycuse Recreation Site continues to expand, more opportunities for exploring housing and accommodation will arise, states the annual report. The community would like to bring more of their people home, provide staff housing and redesign the local hotel to provide additional visitor incentives.
Ditidaht Chief Councillor Brian Tate said the expansions at Caycuse Recreation Site are an asset to the community.
“It creates seasonal jobs for some of our workers from management down to maintenance departments…so it’s great for some of our community members,” Tate said. “Also, it brings in great revenue for our economic development corporation for our nation.”
Tate said the campsite can accommodate a variety of campers, from those tenting to those bringing fifth wheels and RVs.
“We look forward to increasing tourism to our little community in the future,” Tate said. “We have a lot of eco-tourism opportunities available there. If any individuals or the band itself would like to increase those to whale watching, or sightseeing, or kayaking or paddle boarding, there’s various levels of eco-tourism and recreation abilities there.”