Sooke Harbour: News: Deertrail Property
TLC crosses Deertrail threshold
Norman Gidney, Times Colonist
Wednesday, September 1, 2004
The end was in sight Tuesday for The
Land Conservancy’s efforts to preserve the Deertrail property at Sooke
A half-dozen lawyers assembled for the
signing of documents that put TLC in control of the 63 hectares of
property along five kilometres of the Sooke River.
“I signed all the papers this afternoon
to pay off the first mortgage,” said TLC executive director Bill
A cheque for $1.26 million went to the
lawyer for first mortgage-holder James Evans, son-in-law of Deertrail
developer Albert Yuen.
There are still a few more steps
involved, but “This was the key step,” Turner said.
“Weary jubilation” was a good phrase to
describe the mood around TLC, he said. “It’s been a real trial.”
Sooke continues to oppose TLC’s park
One piece of unfinished business is dealing with four firms with liens
against the property — two engineering firms, a building supply
company and a general contractor who together claim $200,000 for work
done for Yuen’s project.
They are unsecured creditors and
normally wouldn’t get a cent in a foreclosure, but Turner said, “We
don’t consider that fair.” The Land Conservancy will negotiate
payment, although not the full amounts.
An appraisal of the property is another
step in the process, needed before TLC can bring in the province and
the Capital Regional District as financial partners on the land
acquisition, likely for $1 million apiece.
The estimated value of the land has
fluctuated over the years because Yuen stopped work at times, changed
course, altered the original plans and got the property rezoned for a
film production centre.
Turner said TLC will also be able to
restart fundraising efforts, which stalled two months ago when it
seemed that Evans might be successful in taking over the property.
That would have left the land trust out
of pocket for the $1,375,000 it paid for the second mortgage and
$120,000 for back property taxes to Sooke.
TLC needs $800,000 to $1 million to
complete the deal on the Deertrail property, said Turner. Expenses
have been higher than expected, including all the lawyers who have
billed for a total of $50,000. While signing off on the legal
paperwork, Turner was also looking ahead to plans for the new park on
the scenic riverfront site.
“The first step will be safety and
security measures to make it safe for the public. It’s not safe now,”
There will be fences, and signs warning
hikers and swimmers, but only around the unsafe areas close to the
canyon edge and around the derelict lodge. People will certainly have
access to the Deertrail property, he said.
“It’ll take five years to get this to
where we want it, but the public will be in it from Day 1,” Turner
An engineering report on the status of
the lodge and stone masonry around the site will be commissioned, to
check for weather damage and deterioration.
Another early project will be a contest
to design a visitor building that will have an interpretive centre,
food services and gift shop. It might be just a trailer at first, but
Turner said it will be important as a gateway and trailhead for the
Sooke Hills parkland. The campsite that Yuen opened on the river
farther upstream will also remain to generate revenues.
“It’s the beginning of an awful lot of
work,” said Turner.
© Copyright 2004 Times Colonist (Victoria)
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