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Old forestry cabin to be torn down

Karim Farahbakhchian, facility manager at Loon Lake Lodge and Retreat Centre, outside the old staff house, which was built in 1948. - Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS
Karim Farahbakhchian, facility manager at Loon Lake Lodge and Retreat Centre, outside the old staff house, which was built in 1948.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS

The last piece of the old forestry camp at Loon Lake Research and Education Centre will be torn down in a few days, completing a decade-long process of renewal at the UBC facility.

The staff building was the last surviving building from Loon Lake forestry camp built in 1948, said facilities manager Karim Farahbakhchian.

Loon Lake was initially established as a UBC faculty of forestry camp for students. Initially, there was only a dining room and six rustic wood cabins with no electricity or indoor power.

Professors used to stay there during the courses held every spring in UBC’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest.

“We still run our forestry camp in April every year. So it’s been going since 1948. We just had one leave two weeks ago,” Farahbakhchian said.

In place of the old staff building will rise a $3.3-million, 6,500-sq.-foot dining hall and kitchen.

“Lots of our trees will be used for construction material for that building.”

The UBC Malcolm Knapp Research Forest operates at the top of 232nd Street and includes a mill for processing the logs.

The new dining centre will have a vaulted ceiling and lots of windows and have the same look as the old staff building that’s being torn down.

Farahbakhchian pointed out the building comes down the same day as he celebrates his 20th year at the centre.

“This is pretty well the last big project. This is it.”

In 2004, a new gymnasium was built, followed by construction of the Koerner Centre in 2005. After that, the Johnson Cabins were built in 2009, “complete with comfortable lounge areas, cozy fireplaces and … peaceful sleeping rooms,” says the website.

Last year, Loon Lake had a natural gas supply installed into the centre, sparing the chore of hauling up propane tanks at a monthly cost of $11,000. The natural gas bill now is about a quarter of that.

The centre’s largest tenant is the B.C. Cancer Society’s which books the facility seven weeks every year for Camp Goodtimes to help sick kids.

Farahbakhchian said the old dining hall will be converted to more sleeping quarters while the new dining centre will go on the site of the former staff building. Construction starts in two weeks with deadline to get the foundation done by the fall.

“If we don’t get that foundation in by September or October, then we’re too late.”

The snow and rain will make it too difficult to continue construction. The new dining centre should be completed by next June.

Over the course of a year, the Loon Lake Research and Education Centre hosts about 20,000 people through corporate and school retreats, wellness events, meetings and team-building exercises.

“We don’t do weddings.”

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