It’s taken many years, but a clean up of the abandoned Forbidden Plateau Ski Hill could soon take place.
Since being shut down nearly two decades ago, Forbidden Plateau Ski Hill (formerly called Wood Mountain Park) has housed dilapidated structures and an abandoned, non-operable chairlift. Groups have tried for years to secure funding to undergo a remediation project.
The Forbidden Plateau Reclamation Society (FPRS) was formed in 2016 to lead the charge on the park’s remediation. The group finally obtained a permit from the province to clean up and refurbish the area once the dry season is over. (The project cannot start yet because doing mechanical work in the area currently presents a wildfire hazard).
The society’s plan is to remove the chairlift’s towers and clean out and remove the broken-down shacks that are present on the hill.
FPRS president Greg Sawchuck declined to speak on the record about the initiative until work is underway. But Edwin Grieve, the Comox Valley Regional District Electoral Area C Director, is familiar with the FPRS’ efforts and will attend its meetings as a non-voting member.
Grieve noted the project has secured just over $40,000 to date in grant funding from the CVRD, BC Hydro and a few companies interested in carrying out the clean up. He said the reclamation society has also secured liability insurance and job site insurance to allow contractors to access the area.
“It’s taken a long time but we’re there now,” he said, adding the project still needs more funding.
According to Grieve, the FPRS has not yet received funding promises from any provincial ministries but secured a permit from BC Parks in July to move ahead with remediation. He expects the project would take at least $100,000 to do “on a shoestring budget.”
“We have support from local parks, we formed a non-profit society and we’ve managed after three years to secure the permits from the province,” said Grieve. “We have the appropriate insurance, we have the appropriate WCB work numbers and we have the heavy-duty operators lined up to do the work for the price of the diesel.”
The abandoned ski hill has become not just an eyesore, but a liability, says Grieve. Despite being abandoned, the hill is commonly visited by hikers and vandals. Most of the structures are marred by graffiti and many burned-out bonfire pits are strewn throughout.
There was also a large diesel spill in the area shortly after the ski hill shut down.
A few years ago, the land was offered to the K’omoks First Nations as treaty settlement land.
“The previous chief supported the clean up,” said Grieve. “The province has basically told us it will remain almost as a Class C park, but will be owned by the KFN. So they’d have it as equity.”
As previously reported by the Comox Valley Echo, Wood Mountain Park was known for housing Vancouver Island’s first mechanical chairlift, which opened in 1972. But Islanders had been skiing at the hill 50 years before that.
While the resort was popular in its early days, it faced a series of misfortunes throughout its more recent history. The opening of Mount Washington Alpine Resort a few kilometres away and some warm winters led to a considerable loss of business in the early 1980s. Then, the ski lodge burned down in 1982 of suspected arson.
Forbidden Plateau Ski Hill eventually closed its doors in 1999 after a heavy snow load collapsed the roof of the ski lodge.
The abandoned hill is located off of Forbidden Plateau Road, in Strathcona Provincial Park.