Williamson’s Lake is a popular spot in summer for Revelstoke locals and tourists alike and it’s the only lake in city limits that is warm enough to swim in for most of the summer months.

Another view of one of the proposed options for the Williamson's Lake revitalization. Photo: Selkirk Planning & Design
Another view of one of the proposed options for the Williamson’s Lake revitalization. Photo: Selkirk Planning & Design

But the City of Revelstoke park, which includes a campsite and public day-use area, is dated and showing signs of wear and tear. The city has done some work over the past years in preparation to revitalize it and now those plans are starting to make headway.

The floating dock at Williamson's Lake. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo
The floating dock at Williamson’s Lake. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

Selkirk Planning and Design’s Fraser Blyth has been contracted to provide concept plans and one potential idea included in the draft designs is an outdoor eating area with a possible food service provider. An outdoor amphitheater, exercise circuit, horseshoe pits, seating docks along the beach and a hammock area are also fun ideas, although Blyth admits not everything will be realistic.

“Adding these amenities are ways to try and attract a wider range of park users,” he said. “We tried to put any idea out there, even if it seemed a little far-fetched. We want to get feedback on what the community likes best, and use that feedback to prioritize which improvements should go ahead, and which ideas don’t work.”

The department of Parks, Recreation and Culture initiated this project in 2010 and now, as director Laurie Donato explains, the area has become a tourist destination.

“It no longer only serves our local residents — thousands of visitors frequent the campground each year,” she said. “I think it is important to invest in our amenities especially those aimed at improving the quality of our tourism product which serves to not only attract new visitors but retain existing visitors which includes local residents.”

The new playground at Williamson's Lake, with campers in the background. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo
The new playground at Williamson’s Lake, with campers in the background. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

Blyth also sees the value in upgrading the area from a personal standpoint.

“Now as a parent with a young child I recognize how important this park is to families in Revelstoke,” he said. “It’s a real scene in the summer. Any upgrades will make it a better experience for residents, and act as an attractive tourism amenity.”

Blyth has created three concept plans for the Williamson’s Lake area, working with Jason Jones from Larch Landscape and Mountain Design and Henning Schipper from Take To Heart. Blyth’s focus was on planning and urban design solutions and he explains the goal behind their work.

“While it is a public park, when you drive in, it feels like a private campground,” he said. “So our task was to find a balance between making it a community park and making it feel like it’s open to the public, while still allowing part of it to function as a campground.”

Williamson’s Lake: A brief early history

This is a historic photo of Williamson's Lake from circa the early 1950s. Photo: http://www3.telus.net/1949/
This is a historic photo of Williamson’s Lake from circa the early 1950s. Photo: http://www3.telus.net/1949/

Document show Williamson’s Lake has been a popular local swimming hole since the 1890s. It is named after Mr. A. Williamson, who had a farm next to the lake. (Note that the correct spelling is possessive: Williamson’s Lake.) Soon after the Revelstoke Rotary Club was formed in 1929, they took on the park as a project starting in 1930, building two piers, a platform, springboards, rafts and built 250 feet of beach. The added change rooms, organized swim meets and hired a lifeguard. Rotary held a fundraising carnival for the lake for over 40 years. For more, see our source: Revelstoke Museum & Archives

The design has taken into account long-term replacement of the current aging buildings, improving the day use area and the campground. See later in the article for more in-depth explanations of the concept plans from Blyth.

A public open house is planned for late this month, likely Nov 23 though this will be confirmed at the Tuesday, Nov. 10 council meeting. The city is interested in hearing feedback from the community on the three draft site plans and any other ideas on what the park needs. Comment sheets will be available and city staff and design consultants will be on hand to answer questions.

“The goal of the public open house will be to identify community-accepted enhancements,” Donato said.

Although there is currently no estimated budget for this project, the city has been clear it wants to keep costs low.

“The plans are pretty ambitious,” Donato said. “There are a lot of amenities identified on each of the concept plans. The intent is to narrow it down to the most preferred, taking costs into consideration of course. It’s okay to end up with a modest plan that serves the community’s needs and one that we can maintain over the long term.”

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See the full report here:

Williamson’s Lake Campground and Day Use Area Concept Plan by Revelstoke Mountaineer

After the public house, staff will consider the feedback and report back to council and provide a recommendation on a preferred plan. Once a site plan has been approved, cost estimates including future maintenance, will be made.

“I think it is important to note, that the site plan will guide future enhancements to the park and will most likely will be a phased project over at least a five-year horizon, could even be longer depending on funds,” Donato said. “ The success of this project will most likely be dependent on community partnerships and grant opportunities.”

A Q&A with the designer Fraser Blyth

We asked urban designer Fraser Blyth of Selkirk Planning and Design on the draft plans for Williamson’s Lake Park and Campground

Can you explain more about the various features of the plans you have come up with?

It’s important to remember that this plan isn’t going to all be done tomorrow. When we’re talking about new buildings, they could happen 10–15 years down the road.

1. Replacing Buildings: The campground shower/washroom building is really in need of replacing. It’s an old building and isn’t wheelchair accessible.

We noticed that the campground office and food service doesn’t function really well, mostly due to a lack of space, or a lack of assigned space. We thought that by proposing a new building(s) that housed the campground reception, the kitchen and food service window, and a caretaker suite to replace the trailer that currently sits on the site, we could help reduce the clutter and give a better overall impression of the park when you first enter it. We also thought that it was important to visually see it right away when you drive in, so campers know where the office is. It’s a visual anchor that helps with wayfinding.

Paddleboarding is a popular sport on Williamson's Lake. The proposed design includes options for new lockers for watercraft like paddleboards. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo
Paddleboarding is a popular sport on Williamson’s Lake. The proposed design includes options for new lockers for watercraft like paddleboards. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

The change room building will last a while longer, so replacing that building isn’t an immediate need. It would be the last building to be built. The idea on where it’s placed is to pair it with the office/kitchen building to great a gateway entrance to the public beach. We liked the historical photos of the old change room buildings that were linked to a staircase and dock on to the water. Cathy English at the Revelstoke Museum and Archives was a great resource in helping us understand what Williamson’s Lake used to be like. We wanted to recreate that feeling with a modern twist to the design.

It also ties in well with a picnic/cooking shelter.

2. Day Use Area: We didn’t change this area too much. The biggest change would be to see the campsites and road that run along the beach on the south end of the park removed, so that the beach could be opened up for more public use. We proposed some landscaping and environmental improvements that would protect the beach from erosion, which is quite extensive. We also thought it would help define public space from semi-private campground space. We thought the idea of having outdoor eating space (some covered, some not) that links up with the food service building would be great. It’s a beautiful spot to sit and relax and people watch.

Another important improvement was to create wheelchair access to the beach. We’ve proposed a wheelchair accessible ramp down to the water and proposed a pathway along the beach that would let people in wheelchairs be able to visit various areas along the beach.

The view of Mt. Begbie from the water on Williamson's Lake. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo
The view of Mt. Begbie from the water on Williamson’s Lake. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

Other than that we wanted to propose some new amenities, like horseshoe pits, a beach volleyball area, seating docks along the beach, and a hammock area, amongst others. Adding these amenities are ways to try and attract a wider range of park users. We tried to put any idea out there, even if it seemed a little far-fetched. We want to get feedback on what the community likes best, and use that feedback to prioritize which improvements should go ahead, and which ideas don’t work.

3. Campground Improvements: These were pretty basic improvements. Improving site markings, leveling tenting sites (some are on a significant slope) and defining where the tent/RV pads and fire rings actually are were the main suggested improvements. Improving site markings and using native landscaping to differentiate where one campsite ends and another begins works better than the privacy fences you see up right now. [These are] mostly small improvements that are more maintenance improvements than anything else.

What design focus did you take for the area?

We wanted the design to be modern with more native landscaping where possible. The main focus was simply to create a great public space.

The city was clear that any new buildings needed to be inexpensive to build and maintain. This is why all the buildings are simple boxes built with concrete blocks and single-pitch roofs. We did think about how to dress them up, so they didn’t look like simple cinder block buildings. We also wanted to reflect some things that we think are characteristic of Revelstoke. So we’ve incorporated local materials on the exterior of buildings (cedar siding, post & beam roofs, metal roofing & siding, etc.) These draw on our forestry and railway heritage, while incorporating some local materials that you don’t necessarily find in Vancouver or Calgary or Kelowna. Things that are specific to the mountains.

Landscaping focuses on environmental protection and succession planting. I’d love to see more native species planted in some areas and the use of good street trees to provide shade and create a nice environment.

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Conversation starter: What do you think of the plans as presented? Are there things you like? Things you don’t? What about other ideas that were missed? Start the conversation here.

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