Ukee Days won’t be moving this year.
Ucluelet’s municipal council has officially called off their decision to move the Ukee Days fairgrounds from Seaplane Base Field to Tugwell Fields until more information can be obtained.
Locals have been clamouring against the decision to move Ukee Days—parking, residential noise, and losing tradition were some of the many concerns raised—since seeing a sign posted at last year’s event that stated it would be the last one held at the Seaplane fairgrounds.
The outcry prompted council to look more closely at their decision and, during Jan 12’s regular council meeting, Coun. Mayco Noel announced the move has been suspended.
Noel said Ucluelet’s revamped Recreation Commission will investigate whether moving the event would be beneficial in the future.
After the meeting, Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly that a walk around Tugwell in December raised questions the district would not have answers for in time for this year’s event.
“It became clear as we were talking and whatnot that a few things need to happen up there for it to be considered properly,” she said.
“The other thing that came up, that we weren’t aware of, was the underground sprinkler system that’s in the field and so, before we go hammering tents and things like that into the ground there, there definitely needs to be an understanding of what that might look like.”
St. Jacques echoed Noel’s sentiment about the revamped Rec. Commission.
“It was decided that, for now, until we get more information and more community thoughts on it, hopefully through the Rec. Commission, that we’ll leave it at the [Seaplane] Rec. Hall site,” she said.
“Definitely there needs to be more conversation around a possible move…I think we should always be open to new thoughts and ideas as well as certainly respecting the history of Ukee Days.”
Coun. Marilyn McEwen told the Westerly the Seaplane Base Rec. Hall is slated for demolition within the next few years and Tugwell’s larger space could allow for more Ukee Days festivities.
She noted council has only delayed the move by one year and an eventual move to Tugwell is still on the table.
“There is an underground sprinkler system there and we need to know what weight bearing it can tolerate, one of the four sides of the field is not fenced so we need to know what that cost would be, and sufficient power is not yet installed there,” she said.
“With the reinstitution of the Recreation Commission, it is our hope that that group, along with the Recreation Department, can research it more thoroughly to answer those questions and make an informed decision from there.”
Coun. Sally Mole told the Westerly that council initially favoured the move because Seaplane Base “is on its way out,” and, “There was a feeling from some councillors that there should be more activity directed towards the [Tugwell] ball fields.”
She added Ucluelet’s boat launch sees a lot of activity during the Ukee Days weekend and moving the event to Tugwell would free up Seaplane’s parking for boaters.
Mole agreed with St. Jacques that the walk around Tugwell played a key role in reversing the decision.
“I don’t know that we really thought through costs et cetera and logistics on relocating et cetera,” she said.
“We went and had a site visit and it was fairly obvious that to move the event would be fairly onerous for staff and for our budget and also the public was pretty clear on how they felt.”
Mole said she was surprised when the idea to move Ukee Days to Tugwell came up last year.
“It kind of came out of left field. Someone had an idea and floated it and I was like, ‘No, this cant be right,’ and my gut was telling me this but through discussion and looking to my peers who have been here for a very long time and have a long history with Ukee Days, if they thought it was a good idea then maybe it is a good idea,” she said.
“I kind of went with that but I did put the caveat on saying we need to roll this out with lots of public awareness prior to Ukee days starting and we didn’t do that, we failed on that…There’s wasn’t sufficient, or any, public input.”
Mole, who has been candidly skeptical of the move from the get-go, acknowledged a sign should not have broken the news to locals but noted that sign proved paramount in terms of generating discussion.
“Having that sign at Ukee Days was just like a catalyst for this huge conversation that we all faced as councillors right there at Ukee Days,” she said.
Mole was thrilled to see locals voice their opinions to council.
“I really love the fact that people spoke out. They came to meetings, they gave us letters, there were delegations and this council did take the time to consider it and say, ‘You know what? We made a mistake,” she said.
“We all make mistakes and owning up to that is a really brave and responsible thing to do.”