Deertrail resort was a dream that never materialized.

Deertrail resort was a dream that never materialized.

Deertrail Resort — a ruins or a lost dream?

Sooke historian Elida Peers tells the tale of ill-fated plan

One of the frequent questions asked by visitors to Sooke is, ‘What is that stone structure up by the potholes of the Sooke River – is it a ruins?’  Well, in a way it is “a ruins.” The ruins of a dream held by Victoria residents Albert Yuen and his wife.

Early in the 1980s the 160-acre parcel of rocky, treed terrain alongside the Sooke River and the Falls was purchased by the Yuens from Jack Barnes, a Victoria accountant. Fresh from a business development in Victoria and an enterprise near Florence Lake in Langford, the visionary Yuens saw an opportunity for an innovative development.

While the details of their ideas altered from time to time, a world class resort in a natural setting, focused on preserving the environment as much as possible appeared to be the main thrust. With its massive timbers hewn from old growth Douglas fir, perched on the brink of a high cliff, small wonder that the structure taking shape riveted the eyes of viewers. The barbecue pit, enclosed in rock blasted from the terrain, was spacious enough to roast an ox.

The location was magnificent, one of the most spectactular river views on the island. With its beautiful setting, the Yuen vision that incorporated the use of natural stone, vegetation and local timber, this project attracted a lot of attention.

At the time a Victoria brewery was going out of business and selling its assets, and the Yuens purchased many of their large vats for water storage at Deertrail. The CNR line was being decommissioned, beginning a new life as the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, and the Yuens acquired and stockpiled stacks of railway ties for re-cycling.

The Yuens had obtained a government grant “seed money” for development in a period when there was an economic downturn and their intriguing plans attracted attention from architects and investors from around the world. Their promotional brochure identified the Deertrail Destination Resort as a world-class retreat specializing in adventure, wellness and ecotourism. Plans at one time included 250 luxury rooms and suites and conference facilities for 450.

The proposed development, in its varied forms, was not without controversy within the local community. Over the next two decades, the enterprise continued sporadically, with a series of planning changes including housing development and promotion as a media village, but it seemed that setbacks plagued the intriguing development throughout. It appeared that lack of investment dollars prevented the Yuens from being able to bring their dreams to fruition, and the partially competed structure fell into disrepair.

Today, the 160-acre site with its three miles of river frontage is held between The Land Conservancy and Capital Regional District Parks. While the structure never fully reached the point of looking like the promotional image depicted here, it was decided that as a safety measure, dismantling of the timbers would take place.

This riverside property, bought in the 1920s by George and Sis Weiler, who raised turkeys and Jersey cattle on site, and called their mountain home Deertrail, has gone through an intriguing cycle. In the space here we can not begin to fully describe the story of Deertrail Resort, but perhaps we have answered the question “Is it a ruins?”

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bill Almond’s observatory in its new home on a Saanich lakeside. (Submitted/Cameron Burton)
Colwood stargazing dome makes a move to Saanich

The backyard structure finds a new home after 30 years

Chris Grzywacz, development agent for cannabis supplier Seed and Stone’s, holds products from the new Songhees Cannabis S + S store on April 20. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)
First cannabis store opens on Songhees Nation, creates economic opportunity says chief

The Songhees Cannabis S + S had a soft launch at its 1502 Admirals Road location on April 20

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Darrel McLeod won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2018 for his first book, Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age. His newly-released memoir, Peyakow: Reclaiming Cree Dignity, follows as a sequel. (Black Press Media file)
Critically acclaimed Sooke author releases new memoir

Peyakow follows as a sequel to Darrel McLeod’s first book, Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age

RCMP have appealed to the public for help identifying the man. (Black Press Media file image)
Police, dog unit called after man exposed himself at West Shore elementary school

West Shore RCMP credits students, aged 11 and 5, for seeking help

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read