It’s amazing how many little things have changed in the short time Kat & I have lived in Ucluelet. We’ve been here long enough to be referring to restaurants with the name they had last season.
“Big Swell” or as we called it “The Swell” is a little diner overlooking the harbour, and the first place we ate in Ukee last year. It’s been re-christened “The Green Room”, but we still call it “The Swell”.
The Rooster Cafe was another little diner around the corner from the Swell. It didn’t have a view or even much direct sunlight in the morning, and it didn’t do well as a diner, I guess. It’s re-opened as a late night pizza joint, Harbour Pizza. Since it’s right beside the liquor store, the bar and the bank, and there aren’t many options for those with the munchies after 10 pm, I think it has a good shot.
Down the road from the former Rooster is the site of former Ukee Babies, a specialty store for kids toys and clothes. Ukee Baby has become Tuff Kids and has moved to Tofino, and so the pink-painted wrought iron grate covers a red “For Lease” sign.
Back on the main road behind the post office, the former Community Resource center has become “West Coast Kids Re-Use It!” A kid-centric second hand store. The Resource Center moved into our brand spanking new 10 million dollar community center, along with the Library. For former library space is now a gallery for a local artist.
The half-dozen dead trucks, rusted and sinking into front lawns, moss slowly taking over, lending the town a feeling of hill-billy charm, have disappeared. Gone. All at once. A few unused boats and seldom-used camper vans still accessorize some front yards, but these have been power-washed of their winter fur, the green scummy moss that grows on absolutely everything. Things are looking quite spic and span.
The most noticeable difference as you drive into town is the new RV campground right at the junction, the First Nation’s owned & operated “Wya Point Campground.” I’ve heard some grumbling about a “trailer park” going there, but the new camper site is clearly for tourists, not locals seeking affordable housing. The wood-sided buildings flew up in a matter of weeks. Bright flower boxes border the parking spaces and overhead lamp posts make it look and feel safe at night. The windows of a little convenience store glow invitingly.
I remember the first time I drove through the mountain pass. It took me three hours to get from Port Alberni to the junction, it was pouring rain and I was white-knuckled the whole way. It sure would’ve been nice to stop at the junction and let my brain get used to the idea that we hadn’t just died after a horrible fall down a sheer cliff into Kennedy Lake, or been creamed by an oncoming, speeding logging truck.
Besides, there’s an obvious need for RV parking, and I can only imagine how harrowing the Highway 4 drive would be for an out-of-towner driving a top-heavy camper.
As I drove past Wya Point the other day, I noticed a new sign boasting “Beach Camping!” I wondered which beach they were sending folks to.
It’s Fletcher’s Cove. My favourite beach. The tucked away sandy beach that wasn’t on any of the tourist maps, the shallow, sheltered lagoon I’ve been taking the dogs to all winter. The beach has been staked out into many, so many tiny plots. A sign posted displays the “Beach Rules”. As I walked past stake after stake, I couldn’t help but picture what a full house would look like.
I knew this was coming. Fletcher’s will soon be home to a new Eco Resort, maybe similar to the one Kat & I wanted to visit in Moose Factory, had we ended up getting that far north. Really we’re lucky that we’ve been allowed to enjoy Fletcher’s as long as we have; it’s First Nations’ land and they’ve shared it with non-FN locals for years.
But I really loved Fletcher’s, just the way it was. It has a different name now, something my brain refuses to remember. I’ll always remember Fletcher’s, the pre-resort beach, the muddy footpaths, the privacy. Ukee is a scrappy little town that was knocked down hard and has clawed it’s way back from the brink. It’s one of the few towns I’ve ever heard of with extensive community planning, actual, far-sighted development taking place to ensure there’s still a beautiful Ukee in another fifty years. It’s exciting to be a part of it, and fascinating to watch the kaleidoscope of change constantly shifting over the town.
But sometimes I wish just a few things would stay the same for a little bit longer.