With the hopes of saving a historic Comox home and creating an interpretive centre, a conversation group has released a report for Comox council presenting two options to keep the home standing.
In June, the Comox Valley Naturalists Society and Project Watershed asked Comox council for a delay on the demolition of Mack Laing’s ‘Baybrook’ house, which is situated at 70 Orchard Park Dr., a 2.6-hectare piece of waterfront property.
Built in 1922, Mack Laing resided in his first Comox house until 1949. It was there where he wrote scientific articles, more than 1,000 journal articles and 14 books.
Council asked for an assessment to determine if the structures (including the main house) which, were in sufficiently poor condition, were worth saving.
The report determined the cost of renovating and saving the building would exceed the cost of reconstruction, and the plan was to remove the structure and return the property to a natural, park-like state.
The groups — known as the Mack Laing House Conservation Committee — enlisted a team of biologists, planners, engineers and historians to examine two homes: ‘Baybrook’ and ‘Shakesides.’
In their report, the committee determined due to flooding, ‘Shakesides’ is structurally unsound and cannot be salvaged in the long-term.
‘Baybrook’ meanwhile, was found to be structurally sound by a professional engineer and salvageable by a professional architect, the report states.
In early September, the Town removed three cottages from the property, which were not structurally sound and beyond repair.
The committee describes two options and their socio-economic limitations:
A national parks-style post-and-beam viewing cover with signage with an infilled basement (cost estimated between $75,000 to $100,000) or a full restoration developing conservation tourism and education (cost estimated between $150,000 to $200,000).
“To make Baybrook a viable business option, the Strathcona Wilderness Institute Facility … is used as a business model for volunteer-based nature education and tourism enhancement facility,” explained the report.
“The proposal is to link the SWI facility which only operates five months of the year and Baybrook through a paid co-ordinator organizing a large volunteer base, developing educational programmes and promoting the new and potentially lucrative branch of ‘conservation tourism.’ “
The committee notes to implement the latter option — which they recommend — they must dissolve the Mack Laing House Committee, reactive the Comox Cultural and Heritage Committee to obtain funding from BC Heritage; constitute the Mack Laing Society to be accountable for the operations of Baybrook as a heritage building and non-profit business; and extend a stay of demolition for eight months to carry out a full market analysis of conservation tourism in the Comox Valley and pull together a volunteer workforce and local materials support for construction.
The committee did identify a variety of problems and limitations including (limited) access and parking, security and building size.
They are scheduled to present the report to council Oct. 9.