New Waterfront Captures the Spirit of a Community

New design optimizes the space on the south shore of Slocan Lake.

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The Village of Slocan transforms a lakeside recreation site

On the southeast shore of Slocan Lake, cradled between the stunning Valhalla and Kokanee Glacier provincial parks, lies a recently rejuvenated recreation site. A new waterfront design has optimized the space, now attractively positioned to contribute to long-term community vitality.

Friends gather on the new grass or lean out on a steel guardrail to watch as kayaks and paddleboards drift across the lake. Nearby, boaters set sail from the boat launch, and swimmers squeal with delight when they dive into the refreshing water.

“I’m absolutely filled with joy every time I go to our newly completed waterfront and see people enjoying what is a tremendously beautiful natural asset,” says Village of Slocan Mayor Jessica Lunn.

Designed by Jason Jones of Larch Landscape Architecture in collaboration with Fraser Blyth of Selkirk Planning and Design, the waterfront revitalization project was carried out by Sierra Landscaping in May 2020 and supported by the Trust’s Community Outdoor Revitalization Grants.

“The timeline, in a way, was a gift,” explains Lunn. “So much was shut down during that period, and they were able to proceed with this outdoor project while maintaining COVID-19 protocols. With so much uncertainty and many people at home, it provided hope and excitement for the community.”

The Okanagan-based contractor sourced materials and labourers locally, providing work in the region during a time of reduced economic opportunity.

This was only the latest step of the project, which first began in earnest in 2018 with concept development and public consultation. In 2019, when the Village originally received the Trust grant, it completed a detailed design plan and undertook capital works—including landscaping and guardrail installation—to make the old recreation parking lot area and other aspects more pedestrian-friendly.

“We’re a pretty tiny community with a limited budget; the Trust made the planning and implementation of the project doable,” says Lunn. “The waterfront beach is something that we hold near and dear to our hearts; it’s a place for coming together and enjoying the Slocan.”

Located at the north end of the village, off Main Street and Lake Avenue, the project augments the natural beauty of the well-used recreational area. A vast improvement over the previous site and parking lot that used to flood every spring, it’s now a stunning, accessible locale that pays tribute to Slocan’s rail and logging heritage.

The designers spent time getting to know the community and took care to understand the history and values of its residents, according to landscape architect Jones.

“Many elements reference the community’s industrial heritage, but with a modern twist using local aesthetics and materials,” he says. “It’s already a beautiful setting with Slocan Lake right there and the mountains as the backdrop, so we didn’t want to compete with that; we wanted to create a functional, timeless space that looks like it’s always been there.”

The design scheme includes some guardrail elements that give a nod to the historic rail line that became the Slocan Valley Rail Trail; it also references the logging industry by using wood for items like benches and chairs, accessible picnic tables and a bike rack. The paving stone surface was inspired by the unique shimmer of wet rocks in the lake, and the aesthetic also mimics elements of the old steamship piers.

“From what we were told, it’s a rite of passage for those who grew up in the Slocan to play on those timber piers, so we wanted to pick up on that nostalgia and connect the design to the area,” adds Jones.

Lunn, who was raised in the Slocan Valley, is thrilled with the outcome. “We’re really grateful that everybody involved was conscious of the importance of this project to the community. Everybody’s hearts were in the right place, and the results reflect that beautifully.”

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