The Ahousaht First Nation on the West Coast of Vancouver Island is taking over management of Hot Springs Cove near Tofino. It has signed a 10-year agreement with the B.C. government to run Maquinna Provincial Park.
The natural geothermal hot spring located in that park attracts 20,000 visitors each year.
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"It sits on the northern edge of Clayoquot Sound," said Trevor Jones, CEO of the Maaqtusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society. He was speaking with Robyn Burns, host of All Points West.
"On the very end of that, connected by a little over a kilometre-long boardwalk, sits a very rustic but beautiful set of pools that look straight out to Japan. You can sit in the pools, and at the right tide you can see whales swim right by, see fishing boats go by, kayaks go by and witness some pretty crazy storms."
Visitors can only get to the hot springs by boat or charter plane from Tofino.
The agreement means members of the Ahousaht First Nation will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the park.
"Two guardians from the Ahousaht community will be based there throughout the summer," said Jones.
"They'll be greeting guests and maintaining and repairing facilities and collecting park user fees and moorage fees. [They will also be] creating more of a First Nations presence there to help folks understand the history of the area and the importance of the area, the spiritual significance of the site."
The business plan allows for more services to be added to the park, including guided cultural walks and traditional food.
"We anticipate building a small campground, between 12 to 15 tenting sites," said Jones.
"We also envision setting up a few small tents that would allow us to provide some day spa services, not only some traditional treatments but also the typical relaxation massage. [We will] also rent towels and robes and Crocs or flip-flops to get folks down into the pools."
The management plan could create 15 to 20 jobs for members of the Ahousaht community. The agreement is part of an economic development strategy signed last year with the province.
In the long term, the goal is develop a comprehensive partnership with B.C Parks for the entire Clayoquot Sound region.
"It's part of a broader strategy that the chiefs have developed to diversify the economy in the area, get more folks working and get more folks connected back to the land," said Jones.
The Ahousaht First Nation will take over management of the park, Apr. 1.
With files from All Points West
To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Ahousaht First Nation takes over management of hot springs attraction near Tofino.