I am always at my most content in the natural world. When we find a place like Moorecroft Regional Park in Nanoose Bay, my happiness quotient multiplies ten-fold. Apparently it does that for a lot of people – the day we discovered this magical spot we encountered a number of other visitors who were exploring the park for the first time, and everyone was having similar reactions.
Moorecroft has a very long history in the central Island area. It was established in 1934 as a summer camp for girls by Gertrude Moore, and was operated continuously by her until 1954, when her failing health necessitated the decision to sell the waterfront property. The United Church of Canada purchased the property for the princely sum of $50,000, and continued to run it as a camp.
And what a camp it must have been! Over the years hundreds of young people would flock to the pristine site to share cabins and traditional camping activities, and to create memories that would last them a lifetime. Historical records reveal that the campers were supervised by an average of 90 employees over the course of the summer. The site eventually grew to encompass 17 cabins, staff quarters, caretaker’s house, a dining hall with a commercial kitchen, main lodge and several auxiliary buildings. On our first visit to Moorecroft several years ago many of those old buildings were still standing and that old-fashioned camp atmosphere continued to linger, creating a very unique ambiance seldom found in a public park. Things have changed in recent years – virtually all of the cabins, other than Miss Moore’s, have disappeared from the landscape. The old dining hall and main lodge are no more – dilapidation had crept in, rendering the buildings unsafe and an insurance risk.
Miss Moore’s cabin, perched on a bluff, has the entire roof covered in plastic tarpaulins. We hope that this is a sign that her home will be preserved. The views from that particular spot are spectacular, and left us thinking about how wonderful it must have been to wake up there each morning.
When the United Church decided to sell the 85-acre property in 2010 there was a great hue and cry, with many area residents fearing that developers would purchase the land and desecrate what had truly become a regional treasure. The property was listed in September of that year at a price of $7.95 million – a price that only a developer (or a lottery winner) could have contemplated. Happily for anyone who lives in or visits the Nanoose Bay area, the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Nature Trust of British Columbia had had the site targeted for a park since the mid 1990s, and they were able to make a successful offer of $4.8 million. It’s a credit, I think, to both the Regional District and the United Church that this lovely gem of a place will be available to the general public in perpetuity, and that the fragile eco-systems will be protected.
So, what will you experience at Moorecroft? It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine what magic this place must have seemed to campers when they arrived from big cities. Walking paths and trails wend their way along more than 2,800 feet (almost one kilometer, or two-thirds of a mile) of pristine waterfront. There is a serene cove ideal for swimming bounded on one side by a rocky spit (with a peaceful bench at the end of it, looking out to Georgia Straight) and on the other by Vesper Point. There is a fairly long walk from the waterfront through the woods up to what is now called the meadow, which once served as the camp playing field. There is a wetland area. There are 79 acres of natural forest that serve as home to a wide variety of flora and fauna (some of it endangered), including bald eagles. There are gorgeous panoramas of sea and shore. There are perfect picnic spots and places to laze away a sunny afternoon. Finally (and maybe this is because Moorecroft was operated for so many years by a religious organization – who knows?) there is a tremendous serenity, a soothing sense of sanctuary about the place. There is no busy-ness to it, no hum of activity – only tranquility and the beauty of the natural world. It may be as close to heaven as I will ever get.
Good walking shoes are recommended if you want to experience Moorecroft to the fullest. Dogs on leash are welcome. Further information on Moorecroft Regional Park can be obtained by going to the Regional District of Nanaimo website at:
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.2978806 Long. -124.176654
N 49 17.873 W 124 10.599