Foiled! (And renewed)

Gah! No sooner did I post my little “I’ve got a secret” yesterday…. and the whole thing got derailed by one phone call last night. Which means I can tell you about it now, and also about our Plan B. (And Plan C – B & I are planners after all… and when we want something enough we are also do-ers.)

So – first the saga of the cabin. As much as I would like to tell the story poetically, it would take too long for first thing in the morning so here’s the short of it: On our recent trip North, Brian and I stumbled onto a property on a pretty little lake at the end of a logging road – a property that had very obviously not been inhabited for at least twenty years. It’s behind a locked gate, and the main cabin has been badly trashed, but even still we got ridiculously excited about this magical spot and started to dream about what it could be if we got a group of people together on it.

When our friends arrived two days later, we took them there as well and they also could see the potential of the building (which is trashed, but the main log structure definitely salvageable and solid) and the land for a group of dedicated folks who wanted a summer refuge, a hunting cabin, an interior basecamp for un-coastal activities, a place to drop a fishing line from – etc. On further investigation it was clear (to our friend Kyla at least) that the previous industrial use of the spot was as some kind of water-extracting business and that a spring must exist high-up on the property that someone had once tried to exploit.

I could go on about the characteristics of the place, but for now I’ll leave that alone and jump to the next part — which is that I made the assumption that this must have been a crown land water lease that was now abandoned and that we could form a society and apply for use of the property. And it was on that basis that we wiled away the next two days dreaming of what we could make of such a property, fully engaged in a beautiful collective fantasy of our cabin on a lake in the woods.

Within 24 hours of getting back to the city (and Google, and property record searches), Brian and I had ascertained that not only was that parcel *privately* owned, but that the owner was still alive and had indeed once attempted a water business from that location thirty years prior. So, still – we figured we might have a chance to get a lease on the land for 10-15 years which would allow us to fix up the cabin and use it for a reasonable amount of time. After all, no one has set foot on this place in decades (not a footprint or a fire ring to be found) – wouldn’t it be an opportunity to rent it and give someone the money to cover taxes at least?

Of course, you know the answer (which we got last night from the very affable owner – a lovely older German man who expressed deeply how much he wanted to help us get something in the area) was no. No, because he still has dreams of getting the water business going again and there are other investors now involved. I have to admit I find it difficult to believe there are investors who have not set foot on the property to see the condition of things (the cisterns are smashed and broken, the power generation shed roof stoved in, etc) – but perhaps it *is* so. Or perhaps he wanted to let us down kindly. Either way, our hopes were up the night before because he had returned our phone call and “wanted to talk to us” but it turns out he just wanted to be nice about the whole thing.

For about half an hour last night I was really crushed…. until I ate some crackers and farmer’s market soft cheese and maple-smoked salmon (my surefire cure-all for any kind of blues)….. and then I perked up again. Because all along there has been a Plan B and C and we always knew it was a long shot that someone would just let us use their land for cheap or almost-free. And it has only been two weeks since we came home from that trip so at least we didn’t have too much time to get attached. (But wow, I really wanted that land so bad it made my stomach hurt).

We didn’t get that land, but what I realized in the process is that I still very much want access to a little piece of land outside of the city. Over the years I have tried to work that dream out of my mind because it seemed impractical – but this discovery was a kick in the heart and I don’t care if it’s practical or not. It’s something I want more than anything else…. a place to go, a weekend refuge at the end of a road, a little spot for building projects, a base for hunting/fishing/hiking/climbing, a cabin just big enough for a snuggly bed and a woodstove.

But at the same time we aren’t all that interested in just getting land and going it alone. For one thing, we don’t have almost any money at the moment (this project has lead to some serious talking about how to put some money aside, so we now have a new financial approach that should help out on this front). But really, for the amount of time we could actually spend at a place – it seems stupid not to share with other people. We have tons of city friends who want a place to go (for all the activities listed above) and don’t have a bunch of money for their own spot.

So! This is how we are proceeding:

Plan A: The affable fellow calls us back in a change of heart and offers us a fifteen year lease. (Unlikely, I know – but I feel that I am meant to have that land).

Plan B: We are forming a Vancouver-based outdoor society (Victoria folks welcome!) and this fall Brian and I are going back into that same area to check out some crown land adjacent to the private land we fell in love with. Non-profit organizations are allowed to apply for crown land leases if they can prove a community and environmental benefit. I expect this process will take 1-2 years, but we have the goal of identifying a couple of spots this fall that would be possibilities. Criteria for us is that it include water (a creek or a lake) close-by, and that it be within about six hours from Vancouver (and preferably not on the Island since the best hunting isn’t there and ferries are already expensive for us).

Plan C: If crown-land leasing turns out to be a total pain, then we will turn our attention to finding a piece of land within two years that our society members could collectively buy at a reasonable sum. In the same area we just found 15 acres for $37,000 that is two minutes from a swimming/fishing lake – and yesterday I identified a 1-acre lakefront crown-land lease with two cabins on it for $50,000 (which I don’t think is a great deal, just a sample). Either of these pieces would allow a collective of 5-10 people to put in just a few thousand dollars to have access. Given that real estate prices in this province are on a downward decline and half of rural BC is for sale right now, I am hopeful that in the next couple of years we can lowball an offer on something that suits our needs and be successful in purchasing outright.

Either way, our first step is to form the society. Hell, even if we had got the private lease, we probably would have gone this route because it’s easier to do things collectively through a formal, legal body.

Today Brian is doing a namesearch which will allow us to move ahead in the society process and then? We will be asking people who we think/know are interested if they are willing to embark on this process with us. This requires no big commitment upfront, but a decision to share some work in researching property and putting together crown land applications — as well as an agreement to enter a collective land fantasy with other people.

One thing I do know about Brian and I — we have a lot of ideas that we toss around and then never do — but when it comes to the things we want to do? We’re determined, organized and totally able to pull them together. Rural and is one question we have not been able to put down in all these five years we’ve been together – and so it seems that now is the time to turn our attention there.

Whatever happens next, it’s going to be an interesting story.

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