For the last 40 years a campground has operated in Toquaht Bay, the heart of Toquaht territory. It was owned by the Ministry of Forests, but when treaty took effect on April 1, 2011, the land was transferred to Toquaht and became treaty settlement land.
When the treaty was being negotiated, there was concern that the campground area may be contaminated as it is located next to an old mine iron ore processing site that existed in the 1960s. To address this concern, the Province of BC promised that if contamination was discovered, they would pay for the site remediation (clean up). This promise was included in the treaty under section 2.9.0.
A few years ago, the Toquaht Nation decided that it wanted to expand the campground and asked BC to do an environmental assessment of the area. If contamination was found, it would be the Province’s responsibility to clean it up as promised in section 2.9.0 of the treaty.
Unfortunately, very high levels of arsenic, selenium and cobalt were discovered, along with high concentrations of iron. In March 2013, It was decided that the Toquaht Marina and Campground had to be shut down due to health concerns.
Since that time, a detailed site investigation has taken place to figure out how bad the problem is. (e.g where is the boundary of the contamination? how deep is it? etc.) Thankfully, we were able to determine that the contamination has low “bio-availability,” which means that it doesn’t absorb into the human body very easily.
Although the Toquaht Marina and Campground was closed down in 2013, the Toquaht Nation moved very quickly to build a new campground to replace it. In the fall of 2013, the Secret Beach Campground and Kayak Launch was opened, and features 63 campsites and a beautiful kayak/canoe launch. We were able to re-open the boat launch also, and had it fenced off so that the launch itself could be accessed but not the adjacent (contaminated) beach.
However, we still had challenges because our very popular marina was still closed. Very thankfully, we were able to reach agreement with the Province and the Island Health Authority to re-open the marina for the summer of 2015! So, we now have a campground, marina and boat launch fully operating again.
As for the old campground that remains closed — over the next 6-8 months the Toquaht Nation and the Province of BC will negotiate a plan for cleanup. It will then take about 3-4 years to complete the cleanup.
We’re hoping that the old campground will be fully cleaned up and back in operation around 2018 or 2019. In the meantime – check out the beautiful Secret Beach Campground and Kayak Launch for your summer adventures!