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Group sets sights on tranforming old Yount school property in Youbou

School District 79 has already commenced a process to sell the school through a formal proposal call
This drawing shows a preliminary plan for a proposed new development for the old Yount school site in Youbou. (Submitted)

By John Ivison

The Youbou Innovation and Development Association (YIDA) plans to purchase and repurpose the old Yount school into a new facility for local community and visitor use.

The existing school which was purchased decades ago from its original owners BCFP at a cost of around $5,000 has sat vacant for at least five years, but has been kept in good condition by the school district at significant annual ongoing cost. School District 79 has already commenced a process to sell the school through a formal proposal call and YIDA group has submitted its proposal to purchase the facility based on certain conditions.

The group’s proposal includes new uses to align with Youbou’s emergence as a gateway to local and west coast trails and world-class kite surfacing at Nitinat and other destinations to the west.

The group has retained Darryl Jonas, a local architect based in Shawnigan Lake, who also works with renowned Victoria architect Paul Merrick, to draw up plans for the site. He has proposed that the new facility, to be called the Trailhead Base Camp, will establish the first visitor accommodation facility that will allow overnight stays, café and other uses along with orientation and other support services. The facility will also reinstate a defunct pre-school facility on the lower level as well as a gymnasium and possible climbing wall.

The balance of the approximately six-acre site is proposed to be taken up with affordable housing on the existing school field, with a view to making accommodation available at low cost, for Youbou residents seeking to age in place rather than leave the community. The architect has set out an overall concept for the site that includes a trail from north to south along the west side of the property with interpretative plaques that provide insight into Youbou’s historic past and pivotal role in the development of the forest industry.

The BC Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan has agreed, in principle, to donate certain forest equipment in its inventory, some originating from Youbou, to be used for landscaping and other purposes across the site.

YIDA has a Facebook page to garner community support and membership to set off the fundraising campaign for the project. The group is also looking for major donations from those supporting the concept of this new facility.

While the project will be self supporting with tenancies enabling financing to be secured, CVRD Area Director Klaus Kuhn has agreed to go to the CVRD board for CVRD support in principle for the project.

YIDA hopes to be able to work with Mosaic and other interests to help support the project with materials and forest industry insight and expertise. Retired forest workers familiar with the manufacturing and harvesting of timber in the area will be consulted and possibly used as guides and orienteers in the Trailhead Base Camp.

John Ivison is a member of the Youbou Innovation and Development Association.

The old Youbou mill, long since closed. Plans for a new development at the old Yount school site in Youbou aim to help revitalize and redefine the community. (Submitted)