Huu-ay-aht First Nation buys 11 properties in Bamfield

A potential tourist town on Vancouver Island that never quite made it has a new player in real estate: the neighbouring Huu-ay-aht First Nation. They bought 11 properties in town, including an airport, and hope to develop that tourism potential.

Village of about 300 people has struggled as tourism potential hasn't paid off

A floatplane lands in Bamfield's harbour. Bamfield is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, about a four hour drive from Victoria. (Amber Strocel/Flickr)

The Huu-ay-aht First Nation has announced the purchase of 11 properties in the remote Vancouver Island community of Bamfield.

The properties range from pieces of land to buildings and businesses, as well as a lodge and an airport.

Huu-ay-aht's elected chief councillor, Robert Dennis, says his community is betting on Bamfield's potential as a tourist destination.

"This connects with one of our overall objectives. We have an old village site here a few kilometres from Bamfield. It's got a historical designation with Canada," Dennis told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"We certainly want to develop tourism around that and then certainly ecotourism can play a huge role here."

Bamfield is a village of about 300 people that has fallen on hard times in recent years.

A number of properties in the village were purchased by an Alberta businessman, but development plans never came to fruition and the buildings fell into disrepair.

"It's a really good thing for our community to see these properties come back into play and bought by somebody who wants to do something," said Keith Wyton, Bamfield director with the Alberni Clayquot Regional District.

Huu-ay-aht First Nation says it plans to re-open some of the businesses in time for the upcoming tourist season.

Dennis says some of the properties were also purchased for their cultural value — Bamfield borders on Huu-ay-aht's traditional territory.

"In the whole Bamfield inlet there's archaeological evidence of our use and occupation as far back as 5,000, 6,000 years ago," he said.

Dennis says his First Nation hopes to buy more property in Bamfield as opportunities arise.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: First Nation buys up properties in Bamfield, hopes to develop tourism

With files from Megan Thomas