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The Village of Slocan

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Feb 11, 2021
The Village of Slocan, British Columbia, Canada

Celebrating a Sense of Place

The Village of Slocan offers a rare respite from the frenzy of modern life. Set idyllically in the West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia, the community boasts a population of nearly 300 lucky residents and welcomes adventurers year-round as a gateway to nearby Valhalla Provincial Park. Historically, this area’s economy was fueled by the mining and timber industry, and that industrial past still lingers in the former mill site on the shore of Slocan Lake. A newly revitalized waterfront recreation area celebrates the Village of Slocan’s unique character with nods to the past and a view to future improvements.

  • Closeup of the back of a wooden bench in the foreground, blurry mountains beyond
  • Three wooden lounge side-by-side on grass
  • Two wood benches on a paved breakwater overlooking a lake and mountains
  • Three wooden lounge chairs on grass facing a lakefront with forested mountains in the background

Building with and for the community

For the Village of Slocan, the vision for waterfront development is to “promote consistent and cohesive placemaking, branding, and built form to reinforce Slocan’s community identity and celebrate its unique sense of place.” Capturing that spirit in the waterfront redesign required ongoing public dialogue with residents and an understanding of the community’s history and unique character.

Enter Jason Jones, Principal of LARCH Landscape Architecture. Along with Fraser Blyth of Selkirk Planning and Design, Jones engaged early with the Village of Slocan residents through questionnaires, design charettes, community meetings and site walkthroughs. When it came time for design implementation, Sierra Landscaping recruited local laborers to supplement the contractor team, ensuring the project was a full community effort.

Flood mitigation and site beautification

According to Jones, the plan had several vital goals, including mitigating the risk of spring flooding, increasing useable space, and reinforcing community identity. Though the lake is pristine and the views are extraordinary, the existing space needed a little help to optimize enjoyment.  Grassy areas and beautifully landscaped zones now enhance the lakefront recreational space that was once mostly gravel. A newly built breakwater helps protect against flooding when the lake rises from glacier runoff and snowmelt in spring, and its unique paving stone surface provides an accessible place from which to take in the breathtaking views.

“We were going for a timeless design to make it seem like the site furnishings were modern yet felt that they had been in the space for a long time. I think we accomplished that goal.”

Jason Jones, Principal, LARCH Landscape Architecture

Relationships – material and personal

The stunning backdrop of Valhalla Provincial Park requires no additional ornamentation. Jones chose site furniture in wood surfaces to create a timeless look that reflects the natural environment and recalls Slocan’s logging, mining, and railroad heritage.

“Developing a relationship with Jackie (Nielsen, Territory Manager) and Leslie (King, Project Coordinator) was the main reason for choosing to work with Maglin on this project,” explains Jones. “We previously had an interaction when they visited me in Golden (headquarters of LARCH Landscape Architecture), and I learned that Maglin is a Canadian-based company, which I didn’t know before, so that changed my perspective.”

A distinctive Pixel layout with integrated planters, accessible tables and seating, lounge chairs, bike racks, and classic benches ensure that visitors to the waterfront have options for using the space, from sunbathing to sharing a picnic or just taking in the gorgeous lake and mountain scenery from the breakwater.

“We were able to translate community character into built form, and the community is now very proud to show off a space that represents their values.”

Jason Jones, Principal, LARCH Landscape Architecture

Sustainable Design for the future

Phase 1, completed in 2020, will serve as a catalyst for further revitalization beyond the recreation site’s redesign. The Village of Slocan purchased the adjacent site of the demolished Springer Creek Mill. With community input, the next chapter will undoubtedly guarantee increased public enjoyment of the waterfront area.

Slocan Waterfront Development