The Kitty Coleman campground celebrates its 70th year as a provincial park in July. A class C park, it receives no funding from government, but there is a ministry-appointed board that administers the park and pays the caretakers.
Upgrades to the 10-hectare park are paid by boating and camping fees. This year and last, the board upgraded some of the fire pits.
An expensive shoreline erosion project took about five years to complete.
“We put about $300,000 into it,” said Norm Pattison, who chairs the voluntary Kitty Coleman Provincial Park board.
Pattison’s son Sean also serves on the seven-member board, as does Blaine Kitchener, who served more than 40 years as treasurer-secretary.
That post is now held by Denise Bekkema.
The park is renowned for containing the biggest tree in the Comox Valley — an old-growth Douglas Fir estimated to be more than 500 years old.
The site was established as a provincial park on Nov. 14, 1944. Its history, however, dates back 95 years when it first became a community park — the same year Merville was established.
“In 1919, most of this area had been logged,” Bekkema said. “The land belonged to the Dominion of Canada.”
At the conclusion of the First World War, locals and British war veterans had come to the area at the same time.
“The Canadians and these British immigrants had fought together in France, from where Merville originates,” Bekkema said. “It combines two French words: mer (sea) and ville (town).”
After dividing the land, the war vets left a strip on the ocean for a community park.
“Kitty Coleman was a woman from the Cape Mudge tribe who passed away the year before (1918) at age 70,” said Bekkema, who has not found much information about Coleman’s husband.
There is a celebration from 1-4 p.m. Aug. 17 to recognize the park’s 70th anniversary. The park is accessed via Coleman Road off the Old Island Highway north of Courtenay. Turn at Left Road, then right at Whitaker Road that runs into the park.
The board is collecting old photos and stories to gear up for the 100th anniversary in 2019.
“Today’s photos and today’s stories are going to be history in a few decades, so we’re open to receiving any photos and any stories about Kitty Coleman Park,” Bekkema said.
Email photos or stories to email@example.com, or send to:
Kitty Coleman Provincial Park
6120 Whitaker Rd.
Courtenay, B.C. V9J 1V7