Twenty years ago, after nearly 16 prior years of dreaming, planning and pitching ideas, the Wild Pacific Trail came to be in the form of the now incredibly popular 2.6 kilometer Amphitrite Lighthouse Loop.
Since the humble beginning of Oyster Jim’s hand-built pathways hugging the temperate rainforest of Ucluelet’s coastline, the Wild Pacific Trail now spans eight kilometers of terrain.
The Lighthouse Loop alone sees over 100 visitors per hour. Adding to the feat is the fact that the entire expanse of the Wild Pacific Trail was built using strict, green trail building practices designed to preserve and protect the areas it meanders through.
Despite the restrictions, or perhaps because of them, the trail manages to be undeniably breathtaking, showcasing the wild and rugged beauty of the untamed elements of the West Coast. While locals already knew Ucluelet for the hidden, coastal gem it was, the trail finally put Ucluelet on the map as a destination.
“The district and community took a leap of faith, trusting in Oyster Jim’s vision for a world class experience,” remembers Wild Pacific Trail Society President Barbara Schramm. “Few believed a trail could be an economic generator but, now, even big city developers are converts to the concept of protecting our pristine coastline with a trail corridor.”
The proof of this lies in the stats. Since its creation, TripAdvisor has ranked the Wild Pacific Trail as the top thing to do in Ucluelet, as well as the second best destination for natural features and parks on Vancouver Island.
It even ranks in the top fifteen on Google for Things to Do on Vancouver Island.
While the Amphitrite Lighthouse is where it all began, the trail continued to expand with the dream. There are now a number of popular sections including the Artist Loops, Ancient Cedars Loop and Rocky Bluffs that entice both visitors and locals alike into the shelter of the forest and to rest at viewpoints on the edge of the earth. The endless expansions and improvements have meant that the trail now passes through public, private, federal, provincial, district and Indigenous land, speaking to its importance within the community. The trail truly embodies Oyster Jim’s own statement, “Impossible is what we do.”
In fact, the Wild Pacific Trail has grown into a priceless piece of life in Ucluelet. Locals can be found out for a run, a dog walk, or just taking in the beauty of their own home at any one of the numerous, scenic lookouts along the way. With more traffic and community engagement, invaluable resources have made their way to the Wild Pacific Trail, including fantastic interpretive walks that aim to educate and entertain, as well as even more sustainable trail additions, interpretive signage and the indispensable resources for trail upkeep. Looking forward, the Wild Pacific Trail Society plans to focus on stewardship and environmental education, staying true to their motto, “Inspiration through Nature.”
If a stunning, free and ecologically mindful public trail weren’t reason to celebrate enough, the fact that it is turning twenty this year is. The birthday celebration will take place Sept. 28 with room for 200 attendees, fit with live music, fantastic food, trivia, presentations and, of course, cake.
Come celebrate and bask in the memories of those who love the trail and made it come to life, weaving its way along the coastline and into the soul of Ucluelet’s community.
— LAURISSA CEBRYK Special to the Westerly