The Lake Cowichan First Nation will soon begin construction of a long-planned residential development on waterfront property on North Shore Road.
Aaron Hamilton, the First Nation’s operations manager, said the development will be market-driven and the units will be available to both aboriginals and non-aboriginals.
He said plans for the development expect to be finalized later this month, and then it will be presented to the community.
“We became a Land Code Nation in 2017 and that means, as a community, we can make our own land-use decisions without having to go through as much red tape to get federal approval for projects like we used to have to do,” Hamilton said.
The residential development will be constructed in an area that the First Nation plans to transform into a variety of economic generators not only for the First Nation, but also for the overall community.
That has already begun with the 2017 opening of the First Nation’s Kaatza Adventures, a rental company that deals in kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats and other water craft, and plans also call for the eventual construction of a marina and a health and wellness centre in the same area.
Hamilton said Kaatza Adventures is now open for the season, and this year, plans are for the company to offer cultural workshops, like cedar weaving, so visitors don’t have to paddle to have fun and learn the culture.
“We want that area to be a hub for community activities and it already has Kaatza, the beach, a dock and a mini-longhouse,” he said.
“We’ve also recently completed our new $700,000 waterfront walkway, which was constructed with a grant from the Building Canada Fund, that also has a 30-foot viewing platform and is linked to the extension of the water and sewer services to the area that was completed in preparation for the development of the new residential development.”
Hamilton said the First Nation also has two carving projects underway this summer to celebrate and showcase its culture.
He said a memorial totem pole is being prepared to honour the late chief Cyril Livingstone and others who have died, and is expected to be completed and unveiled this summer.
“The totem pole is being carved by Joshua Watts, who descended from the Lake Cowichan First Nation,” Hamilton said.
“Members of the First Nation have traditionally been known as master canoe builders so Joshua is also in the process of building us a canoe out of a cedar log. We see this project as a way to regain that connection with the past. We’re a small First Nation, but we’ve invested heavily in reconnecting with our culture.”
Hamilton said, as part of reinvigorating the ancient culture, the First Nation hopes to host traditional canoe races, which could also include races in non-traditional canoes, next year.
He said the plan would be for paddlers to be invited to compete from all over, including aboriginals and non-aboriginals.
“We’ve also applied for funding to complete an interpretive trail that would start at the waterfront, go through some Crown land, and end at the Laketown Ranch,” Hamilton said.
“The plan would be to place signage along the trail to explain the cultural significance of plants and places along the way. We may even engage some of our elders to do walking tours along the trail. The First Nation is working on a lot of plans and projects.”