The 80th anniversary of a historic site for the Town of Qualicum Beach was celebrated by councillors, town staff and the relatives of the former owner on Wednesday, Aug. 1.
The doors to the St. Andrews Lodge opened Aug. 1, 1938 by Simon, Dora, Robert and Elizabeth Little, but the waterfront site will soon be re-incarnated as a public park.
Elizabeth Little, a celebrated citizen of Qualicum Beach who was named the town’s citizen of the year in 1983 and the town’s first Freeman (the highest honour a town can bestow) in 1998, passed away in 2011 at the age of 87.
A deal between the town and Little’s estate was announced in July of this year for the town to purchase the St. Andrews Lodge property for $3.4 million with the plan of turning it into a public park.
“This is Qualicum Beach’s Stanley Park,” said Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer, who was in attendance at the 80th anniversary celebration along with the rest of Qualicum Beach council, and five generations of Little’s family who came from California for the event.
“It’s very hard… to let it go,” said Sandie Klein, Little’s niece, who was also celebrating her birthday that day.
It was Klein’s father and grandfather who built the lodge and cottages on the site, where Klein and her family has many memories of visiting her aunt and playing on the grounds.
“She was an amazing woman,” said Klein, a sentiment echoed by many of the councillors in attendance.
“She just dedicated herself to the betterment of the community,” said Coun. Anne Skipsey, whose parents knew and worked with Little on various town projects.
The Qualicum Beach Historical Society was launched through Little’s desire to preserve the town’s history, said Skipsey. Little also worked to keep the lodge’s rates down so that families could afford to keep coming back. Little wouldn’t even shop outside of Qualicum Beach if she could help it, said Skipsey. “She was so proud of this town.”
Of the town, and of the St. Andrews Lodge area specifically, “She (Little) would say, ‘Where else would I go? There’s no place more beautiful than this,’” said Klein.
As for the plans to turn the land into a park, Klein said, “She would have loved it.”
The park idea first came about decades earlier, said Skipsey, with Little speaking with Skipsey’s father and then-mayor of Qualicum Beach, Art Skipsey, about what would happen to her property when she passed away.
Skipsey said, though a proposal for Little to donate the land to the town was raised, an agreement could not be reached.
Nonetheless, Skipsey said her father is proud that the land will now become a park.
When it comes to changes the town has planned for the site, Mayor Teunis Westbroek said, “Let’s take it easy.”
He noted that the public has not had a chance to take a look at the waterfront property, and suggested public picnics may be organized to help introduce the community to the land.
Westbroek said that generally, there is a desire to maintain the lodge building, but that the cottages would have to be assessed. Going forward, he said, the town will look to respect the wishes of those who knew Little, as well as consult with the public and look to make the most use of the land for the community.
The property transfer is expected to be complete in early September.