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Cumberland Lake Wilderness Society gets grant for walk-in campsites

ICET grant supports what will be pilot project to gauge level of public support
Cumberland Lake Wilderness Society received an ICET grant to add camping sites this summer. Record file photo

The Cumberland Lake Wilderness Society (CLWS) is getting some funds to help create some campsites near Comox Lake, ones aimed at a different type of camper.

The society, which operates the site for the Village of Cumberland, received a grant from Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) recently to add the new walk-in sites this summer.

“This type of pilot project will help diversify and expand camping opportunities by increasing alternative revenue streams, while encouraging low-impact camping and travel methods,” ICET board chair Josie Osborne said in a news release. “On a larger scale, adding accommodation in Cumberland is key to ensuring the Village fully captures the additional benefits that overnight visitors can generate for the local economy.”

The work will include six next tent pads and a couple of common areas. There will be fire rings, picnic tables and a metal food cache. The site is accessed by a 20-metre walk through forested area that overlooks the lake.

ICET applicants can receive up to $15,000 in matching funds through ICET’s Small Capital Restart Funding Stream, which aims to benefit projects that create opportunities related to business restarts and sustainability since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. CLWS is covering the other half of the costs.

Since June, ICET has distributed grants to 11 communities throughout the region. ICET also recently announced support for a drive-in theatre project for Port McNeill.

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For the Cumberland Lake Wilderness Society, the work means they can open up additional space at the campground, which like so many has been shut down due to pandemic restrictions. Genevieve Burdett, CLWS executive director, says the process was very fast, but the projects have to be turned around quickly – three months maximum.

“It was, like, a very fast-track application process,” she told the Record. “You submit your application, and they approve it within a week.”

The campground is back open to the public as part of the phased-in approach to reopen sectors of the economy in line with public health guidelines. As well, with students back in classes this fall, CLWS expects to be operating programming for school groups again to visit the lake.

“We are able to open all our sites now,” she said. “We just opened them.”

She said the park’s master plan recommends sites that promote alternative forms of transportation. One potential spot in the plan is far from the current campsite and would require adding infrastructure such as water and toilets, but the society was able to find a forested area not far from the upper site that had not been developed yet.

“We already have water and bathrooms there, so it’s not such a big investment,” Burdett said.

The spaces are being designed with walk-in traffic or cyclists in mind, as amenities like the metal food cache will allow visitors to store food on site, even if they did not arrive by car or truck. In this way, the new sites will help CLWS determine the response to walk-in sites.

“It’s kind of a pilot project to see if the public is interested in those kind of sites, and if they are, we can invest and do more,” she said. “It’s just adding more capacity to our campground.”

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