Ahousaht Ha’wiih hosted a grand opening celebration of their newest economic development venture, Lone Cone Hostel & Campground on a bright and sunny June 26.
Lone Cone Hostel and Campground is located on Meares Island at the old Ahousaht village site called Matsquiaht.
In more recent times it was the site of Christie Indian Residential School, which ran from 1900 until 1983.
During the mid-1980s, a fire burned the main building to the ground, leaving only a few outbuildings.
After Christie closed, the property was used as a family development treatment center known as Kakawis. After Kakawis moved to Port Alberni, the Catholic Church put the property up for sale and it was purchased by Ahousaht First Nation in 2012.
The site continued to be used for healing purposes until 2015 when it was transformed into a campground under the direction of Ahousaht Ha’wiih through their economic development entity called Maaqtusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS) and Ahousaht Business Corporation (ABC).
MHSS CEO Trevor Jones called the opening of the campground an incredible milestone.
At the opening ceremony, guests were treated to a traditional salmon barbeque with all the trimmings before elder Hudson Webster said a prayer chant.
Speaking on behalf of the Ahousaht Ha’wiih, Webster explained in the Ahousaht language, the history of the site and how it connects Ahousaht’s people and traditional territories.
With the Ha’wiih standing before the crowd, Jones acknowledged them and the MHSS board members. He also acknowledged Ahousaht elected Chief Greg Louie and guest James Costello of Cermaq.
“This was a real team effort,” said Jones, adding that a lot of sweat and love had gone into creating it.
Ha’wilth A-in-chut Shawn Atleo thanked Jones and the staff of Cha Chum Hiyup in Ahousaht for their work.
He said important work was carried out by the Ahousaht people to cleanse the place of its dark, residential school past. “Many came here or had family members attend residential school here and now is a real moment of healing,” he said.
He acknowledged it was a dark page in history; one that would take many people to turn. “And now look what we’re doing. We are creating sustainable economic development for our people,” said Atleo.
The new campground has been branded with a new logo featuring Buc miis, the Ahousaht word for Sasquatch, Bigfoot or Yeti. Local First Nations people claim Meares Island is a hot spot for Sasquatch sightings.
The campground’s first paying guests were invited to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Annelies Gevaert of Belgium and Francis Maduzia of Portland, Oregon held the cedar bark rope as Hakuum Ilene Thomas did the honor of cutting on behalf of her brother, Tyee Ha’wilth Maquinna, Lewis George, who couldn’t be at the ceremony.
The Ha’wiih gave the first two visitors the cedar rope as gifts. Gevaert said she was very honoured to be part of the ceremony and called the campground very cool.
Lone Cone Hostel & Campground features several tenting sites separated by newly planted cedar trees. The camp ground has picnic tables, a tent pad and stunning views of the channel and Vargas Island.
There is a 30-bed hostel with separate men’s and women’s dorms. There are singe bed/bunk beds as well as private rooms for couples and families.
Guests may cook their meals over one of the three communal fire pits or, for a small fee, have use of the communal kitchen.
There are restroom, showers and an outdoor vanity. For those that need to connect with the world there is a computer room and Wi-Fi in an outbuilding. In the same outbuilding is a small convenience store and guest lounge.
A stay at the campground starts at $45 and includes water taxi fare. Guests have access to the Lone Cone Trail where they can hike to the summit of Lone Cone Mountain to enjoy the stunning views of Clayoquot Sound.
The new campground employs two maintenance people, some hosts and groundskeepers and a receptionist working out of Tofino at 368 Main Street. Guests of the campground travel aboard the Ahousaht Hakuum (Ahousaht Queen).