In the ‘20s, the Barr Brothers’ Logging Company purchased a piece of land that would accommodate their successful sawmill. Over the course of the next four decades, the property became the largest settlement in Alta Lake (as Whistler was called at the time), housing 60 to 70 families. The site was then used by the Soo Valley Lumber company in the ‘50s, before becoming home to many of Whistler’s original ski bums — as well as the second incarnation of the infamous Toad Hall cabin — in the ‘70s. Eventually, the area was abandoned; its now-dilapidated buildings and their remnants serving as a popular hiking destination commonly known as ‘Ghost Town’.
Now, the Parkhurst lands — an 81-hectare chunk of waterfront property located at the north end of Green Lake — are set to begin a new chapter following the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) entrance into a purchasing agreement for the property. The deal is pending the adoption of a 2016-2020 Five-Year Financial Plan Amendment bylaw on April 11 that will release $6,503,000 from the RMOW’s reserves to pay for the property, following the first three readings of the bylaw that took place at Whistler council’s March 21 meeting.
It’s a landmark deal for the municipality, particularly since the lands have been privately owned for the past century. The RMOW “immediately pounced” on the property after first noticing the listing advertised in late January, said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
“It’s not everyday that 200 acres of waterfront property comes up for sale,” she explained.
Aside from the obvious benefit of waterfront green space, “there are many other aspects of this property that are very appealing, one of which is its significant heritage value.”
Although Wilhelm-Morden stressed there is no urgency to develop plans for the property — “it’s been sitting vacant for years,” she said — the land is being purchased with the intent to retain it as parkland for the time being. “We haven’t really had any time to consider what the future plans for it might consist of, but waterfront green space is a really significant asset for us.”
But one thing Wilhelm-Morden maintains the vast piece of property won’t be used for? Housing.
“Putting access and services in over there would be very expensive, and we already have a land bank in Cheakamus Crossing which is already serviced,” she explained. “I just don’t think we would consider any development over at Parkhurst — other than park.”
While the property will continue to serve as one more opportunity for residents and visitors to enjoy the great outdoors, Wilhelm-Morden said she hopes the RMOW can take steps to preserve the historical nature of the land as well.
“I’d like to see something restored, if possible,” she said. “We’ll just have to take some time and take some care in planning what we want to do.”
And when the time to begin planning comes, the community will play a role in that process, said Wilhelm-Morden.
“I think, as with everything we do, we really want to listen to what the community is thinking about, whether it’s a project or a park or whatever the case may be,” she explained, adding that the municipality’s Recreation Leisure Advisory Committee will certainly have input into how the land will be used in the future.