Coastal Journeys

Much Ado About An Outhouse

....CELEBRATING THE BC MARINE TRAILS (photo by Bob Davidson)

It was an ‘historic’ day for the BC Marine Trails….a day in the early 1990s. 

A pickup truck carrying a wooden outhouse complete with a little round door knob and tiny diamond shaped windows was driving slowly and carefully along Isabella Point Road on Saltspring Island. Eyed with some interest by a few passersby along its route, the truck and its load wound their way to an old unused logging spur road near Musgrave Landing.    As its overly tall load probably teetered precariously, the driver expertly wove the truck’s wheels between, around, and sometimes through multiple potholes.  It finally had to stop as the road steepened further, but fortunately not too far from its goal.  Four men then got out, opened the tailgate, and assessed the situation. 

Well, obviously, a hole had to be dug.  They picked up picks and shovels and set to work. outhouse2 0004 blogOuthouse - Digging the hole - Saltspring Paddling ClubAfter admiring their handiwork sometime after, they set to again, to haul the outhouse out of the truck bed and carry it to its final resting place over the hole, situated on a level spot just above a little beach, about one kilometre south of Musgrave Landing.  And this they did. Twenty years later, this sentinel of the BC Marine Trails still stands.  The relatively lonely vigil of its past however, is about to be shattered….  Because, on the first day of summer, June 21st, 2014, our humble BC Marine Trails outhouse will not only witness a convergence    of a huge flotilla of paddlers to its shore, but will be a focus of it.

outhouse2 0005The'Sentinel', awaiting a little TLC refit before the big day A little more background:  Sometime around 1986 a paddler named Donald Flook built an outhouse, partially out of recycled materials, on his Salt Spring Island property on Isabella Point Road.  He was happy with his outhouse, but perhaps it didn’t get as much use as he had expected…  Then a few years later Donald became inspired by the ideals of the original BC Marine Trail Association started in the early 1990s by Pete McGee and Chris Ladner. 

This Association worked devotedly for a decade or so, trying to create their vision of a marine trail of access points and campsites along the BC Coast.  When the organization leased Blackberry Point on Valdez Island and installed a composting toilet on the site, it gave Donald an idea.  He and some friends knew of a few crown land parcels on the southwest side of Saltspring Island and were looking for ways of getting some form of protection for them for conservation or recreation purposes.  The plot of land and its beach just south of Musgrave Point was one of these parcels, and it was the most fitting candidate for a BC Marine Trail site.  So why not get the BCMTA to write a request to the Ministry of Lands for use of the site, and anchoring it for the future with an additional request for the installation of an outhouse?  Surely this could be a first step in officially securing the site as a BC Marine Trail campsite?  Donald offered his outhouse to this worthy cause, and the BCMTA made the request.  The Lands Ministry granted the request, and the deed was done.

Unfortunately, a few years later the BCMTA dissolved because of lack of support through some economic hard times.  The outhouse and site near Musgrave Point became forgotten by all but a few paddlers who stopped at Musgrave for an occasional rest break.  Permission for the outhouse and use of the site was lost within the realms of the Lands office.  The BCMTA vision itself was rarely spoken of except by a few diehards, and the Blackberry Point lease expired and could not be renewed.  Things looked pretty dismal…

Then, a miraculous renewal of interest in the BC Marine Trail concept occurred in December, 2007.  The result was the formation of a completely new organization with a similar vision, this time called the BC Marine Trails Network Association.  All this is dealt with thoroughly elsewhere, so suffice it to say, that the BCMTA passed on the torch to the newly formed and energized BCMTNA.

One day in 2009, the little lost outhouse was rediscovered by a BCMTNA director during a Nanaimo Paddlers trip through Samsun Narrows.  They stopped at the Musgrave Point beach for lunch and a break, and there was an outhouse...  Stapled to the inside back wall of the little building was a plastic coated sign, identifying it as the property of the ‘BC Marine Trail Association’.Toilet Musgrave Pt 198 Cropped

‘Remarkable’, the director thought.  ‘I must look into this.’  However, it wasn’t until 2011, when the Saltspring Island Paddlers joined the amalgamation of clubs that constitute the membership of the BCMTNA that a link was made. It was then an easy matter to unearth the permission form buried for so long in the Lands office.  RSTBC began the process to have it designated as a recreation site, and Donald’s plan had finally come to fruition.

Now, in 20MusgravePoint-214, the BCMTNA is ready to install BC Marine Trails signage on some sites on its growing trails network.  The question is:  which site should be the first

Our little site on Musgrave is not by any means a ‘destination’ or ‘wow’ site, but because of that outhouse, it is the first ‘new’ RSTBC Recreation site to become designated as an official BC Marine Trails campsite anywhere on the coast.  What better choice could there be?


Well, we had so much fun with the flotilla during our 2011 Grand Opening at the Vancouver Island Paddlefest that we thought we’d do it again!  We’re expecting at least 100 paddlers, hopefully more, to launch from various launch points on Vancouver Island and also nearby Marine Trails campsites, timed to converge into a grand flotilla as they cross Samsun Narrows and arrive at the little Musgrave Point Beach.  We will have a media boat just off shore photographing the flotilla as it arrives and salutes the beach and its guests.  After the boats are all ‘parked’, the sign will be put up with great fanfare, and a feast of snacks and cake will be enjoyed around the newly constructed picnic table.  This will be located in the camping area above the beach, not far from the celebrated outhouse.  Besides a contingent of current BCMTNA directors, guests will include members of the original BCMTA, and also representatives from RSTBC, BC Parks, and National Parks.

Approach paddlers blog Along with being an opportunity to celebrate the growing establishment of the BC Marine Trails, this event will also be a great opportunity for paddlers from all over the island and lower mainland to meet, socialize, and paddle together!

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