The Crescent Valley Beach, where generations of locals have frolicked along the Slocan River, will soon become the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s newest park.
The property’s longtime owners have donated the land to the RDCK, which accepted the offer this month.
Slocan Valley regional director Walter Popoff says he’s pleased with the decision and reiterated the value of the property to residents.
“It is a cornerstone of Slocan Valley culture and hopefully, everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy this property now and forever,” he says.
The beach is a popular recreation area, used extensively by residents and tourists for swimming, rafting, and kayaking.
The property is 6.4 acres (2.6 hectares). Once the land has been transferred to the RDCK in early spring 2012, planning work will begin to create a new parking lot and safer highway access.
Popoff says parking is a key concern — on hot summer days, the existing parking area overflows along the highway shoulder.
RDCK planner Monty Horton says the Ministry of Transportation is “pretty keen” to work with them.
A risk assessment has also been done to identify things like trail reconfigurations, and old pilings full of nails.
“They’re definitely a hazard, but we also recognize that beach may exist because those pilings were there in the first place,” Horton says.
The beach is the former site of the Patrick sawmill, which has a direct connection to the birth of professional hockey in BC.
Lumber baron Joseph Patrick established the mill there in 1907, and was joined in the business by his sons, hockey stars Lester and Frank.
They sold the mill in 1911 and invested the proceeds in founding the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, which introduced such innovations as the blue line, goal crease, forward pass, and playoff system.
Foundations and stone ruins from the mill still remain, in addition to the pilings.
Popoff says while the previous owner didn’t mind people crossing their property to use the beach, another owner might not have been so benevolent — hence his desire to see it permanently secured for public use.
“If the property was sold, somebody could have put up a fence and prevented access to the beach,” he says. “It would have been a crying shame. When the opportunity arose, I figured let’s see if we can secure it.”
Popoff says the negotiations played out over the last year and a half, and required Agricultural Land Commission approval.
He says the owner, who will receive a tax receipt, was “really nice to deal with … Very gentleman-like. I was surprised they donated the whole 6.4 acres. I was expecting maybe one or two acres.”
Popoff, who grew up in the Slocan Valley, says the beach hasn’t changed much since he was a kid — and his intent is to leave it mostly as is, but possibly add some amenities, including washrooms and picnic tables.
He’s hoping students at nearby Mount Sentinel Secondary might participate in the planning process.
“It’s going to be slow because there are no funds to do it. We’re going to have to go out and find funds to develop it.”
The RDCK estimates the initial capital costs, including surveying, subdivision, washrooms, and parking, will be in the range of $60,000 to $80,000. Annual maintenance is expected to be $13,000 to $20,000.
Popoff also wants to explore the possibility of declaring it a historic site and erecting a plaque or signage about the Patrick mill and the famous family that built it.
Horton, the RDCK’s planner, has prepared a purpose and operations statement for the park, which is now available online. He says they are also thinking about naming the park after the Patricks, but need the family’s blessing first.
For now, it will be known as Crescent Valley Beach Park.