The Lake Babine Nation is poised to go into the recreational fishing and hospitality business by acquiring a closed lodge on Babine Lake.
Taking over the Fort Babine Lodge’s buildings and lands is to be the first in what will be a transfer of provincial Crown lands comprising 13 parcels amounting to 1,260 acres called for in an incremental treaty agreement.
The agreement is not a formal land claims treaty but is regarded as a first step toward providing First Nations with lands and resources upon which to build an economy.
In the case of the Fort Babine Lodge, the Lake Babine Nation has applied for a Crown lands licence so that it can begin needed improvements to its facilities in advance of the property being formally transferred to it under fee simple ownership.
Information filed by the Lake Babine Nation to support its Crown land application indicates it wishes to work on the property this year leading to an opening in 2019.
There’s a main building, eight cabins and a wharf on the two parcels making up the Fort Babine Lodge property.
“The legal transfer takes some time and so we are providing this licence to enable Lake Babine Nation to make improvements on the premises,” the provincial indigenous relations and reconciliation ministry stated in a release.
The previous lease, held by a member of the Lake Babine Nation, has expired.
As called for in the incremental agreement, the Lake Babine Nation financed a business plan for the lodge operations using $20,000 provided by the province.
“The overall strategy …. is to take the current infrastructure and refurbish it so that the lodge provides mid-priced accommodation, rental fishing boats, fishing licence sales, a waterfront with rental canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, an isolated and safe swimming area, and a fire pit ……,” the business plan states.
The main building is to become larger thanks to a 2,000 square foot addition to accommodate a restaurant and meeting area. An RV parking area will also be improve.
Road access to the lodge property is via the Nilkitkwa Forest Service Road that runs north from Smithers Landing.
The property is located within the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako but outside of its building inspection service area.
The regional district was asked to comment on the Crown licence application and staffers noted that “isolated resorts and lodges increase the risk of interface fires, and represent a challenge to firefighters who must focus attention on protecting the building. This can increase firefighting costs and take away from the protection of other resources.”
A recommendation that the provincial wildfire branch be consulted regarding the need to apply “Fire Smart” standards to the development was adopted by the regional district’s rural directors at a committee of the whole meeting and will be taken to the next regular meeting of all regional district directors.
Other parcels to be transferred as fee simple ownership under the incremental agreement are McKendrick Island and Michell Pierre, two parcels at Donald’s Landing, parcels at Tachet and Smithers Landing and parcels at Augier Lake, John Dennis Landing, Pendleton Bay, Pinkut Lake North, Topley Landing and Pinkut Lake West.
As with the Fort Babine Lodge property, the additional parcels are to be held by the Lake Babine Nation under fee simple ownership and will not be part of the federal reserve system.
“Lake Babine Nation will be able to decide what to do with the land, including an ability to sell specific parcels if it wishes and use the money to buy other land available on the market,” a summary of the incremental agreement states.