Looking beyond a vacant spot to two boats in a body of water. There are trees beyond

What’s been happening with the renovations at Gorge Harbour

It has been about seven months since operations at Klahoose Gorge Harbour were scaled back due to a need for extensive renovations. While much of it is not visible to the public, QXMC, the Klahoose First Nation‘s development corporation, has been very busy since then. 

On Wednesday Ron Buchhorn, Chairman of the Board of QXMC, and Marco Bedetti, who has been Resort Manager since April, gave Cortes Currents an overview of what they are doing. 

Image credit: Marco Bedetti, Resort manager of Klahoose Gorge Harbour

Buchhorn explained, “We want this to be a resort that people are amazed at in terms of the service, the ambiance, and yet we want to keep it quaint in the sense that we want the islanders to feel welcome here and enjoy the facilities here.”

“So it’ll be an interesting path to walk, where we’ll have boaters come in and half million dollar boats who have certain expectations and then people from the island who will want to enjoy the Gorge who have a set of expectations. I’m sure that Marco, having lived here and understanding the culture here, will thread that needle perfectly.”

So Cortes Currents asked Bedetti, “How long have you been on Cortes Island?

Marco Bedetti: “Since 2017, so it’s getting towards seven years.” 

Cortes Currents: What did you do before becoming the manager of Klahoose Gorge Harbour?

Marco Bedetti: “I started off working at McDonald’s as a 16 year old young fellow. I moved into IT recruitment, which means I was looking for IT specialists for projects, banks, the telecommunication sector and so on. I then saw a huge interest from my end to be more evolved in IT and I also saw the money they were making, so I decided to step over into informatics. I did first level support as a beginner, went on to do second level and third level support. Then I had my ITIL certification and therefore became a service manager. A Service Manager in operational IT is basically responsible for the entire support team, is also responsible for the system administration team, and makes sure that daily operations run as smoothly as they can.”

They started by describing the challenges.

Ron Buchhorn: “On the water and septic system, we were out of compliance with regulations. Which is why we could not run the resort in its previous state.” 

Marco Bedetti: “Island Health allowed us to run it in a moderate way and that meant there was no camping allowed, and accommodation was restricted to any type of contractor that would work for the projects that we have, but not just a normal tourist that would visit us.”

“One of the issues that we had is due to testing of the waters. We realized that we had too much salinity, and therefore high conductivity. Not that it was a problem to drink it, but it’s just  a guideline that we should fit in, and we didn’t.”

“Our septic system was overloaded.  We couldn’t have ran the amount of RV sites and rooms and services as we usually do without having major issues on the septic system. Also Island Health has a pretty keen eye on us right now, so we really have to be in the parameters that they want.”  

“On the other hand, the restaurant has been condemned. It has been seen as unsafe for the public.  This was due to structural engineering issues. They came by, evaluated the structure itself and just didn’t allow us to fix it – but rather to take it apart.”

Cortes Currents: So what have you accomplished since then?

Marco Bedetti: “Regarding the water issue, we’ve dug three new wells.  They’re promising.  The water tests have been doing well.  We have enough water and it seems like it’s good water.”

Cortes Currents: You mentioned three wells, where are they and why three? 

Marco Bedetti: “The wells are on the top of the property.  Why three? – Because we wanted to make sure that we got water and if one wouldn’t have worked, we at least had a spare.”

Ron Buchhorn: “When you spend the money to bring a well drilling operator from Campbell River or wherever  to Cortes, it costs a lot of money to set up. Say we brought all these guys over, drill one well and send them home. Then ‘Oh, that’s no good. Bring them in again’ – and maybe we have another failure. So we brought them in, drilled three wells here and two at Squirrel Cove, all under the same contract. We probably saved over $100,000 in mobilization/ demobilization fees.” 

Cortes Currents: So how did the wells go?

Ron Buchhorn: “Number two was a bonanza, we hit 35-40 gallons a minute.”

Marco Bedetti: “So the next step  is to design the water system and to decide how we want to distribute that throughout the property.” 

“The septic – we’re still planning on. We were able to regulate a few things which allowed us to run, as we did this year, but we need to focus on next year where we want to reopen the entire business with all the services. We just need to figure out what exactly to do so we’re compliant and we get rid of some smells that we don’t want.” 
“Electrical work is still to be done. I think the main focus will be to provide more amperage to the RV sites. As  our units get bigger, they demand more electricity, so we’re definitely looking into being able to at least provide 50 amps for the RV sites.”

“We might go as far as to provide 100 amps for certain boaters that require that, because some boats do take 2 X 50 amps. Some only have 100 amps, and we don’t have that service yet.” 

“We saw that there was a big problem with the laundry. I want to thank Johan, who is an appliance repairs guy from Quadra Island. He’s been here almost every week to try to fix the machines that we have. We’ve come to the point where it’s not worth it anymore. So we purchased five brand new machines, which are washer, stacked, dryer on top. We have a sixth, which is a large chassis, so people can actually wash their bedding without having to cram it into a small machine.”

“We should be receiving the machines mid September, hopefully running by October 1st. That should allow the community, but also our guests, to really have a fully functioning laundry area.” 

Buchhorn suggested Bedetti talk about the low flow toilets, from an environmental perspective. 

Marco Bedetta: “We have a contract with a plumber who is going to change every single toilet we have. They’ll also work on the showers and any type of taps to make sure that the amount of flow is reduced, therefore reducing water consumption and also the amount of water that would hit our septic system.” 

“We’re looking into using water that is consumed through the showers and through the laundry to flush toilets, but also after filtering and a bit of treatment, to irrigate all of our lawns.”

“We had to change a couple of the roofs on the buildings of our property. They were getting very mossy. The moss was growing under the shingles.  We have a fully Indigenously owned company evaluate the situation and start putting on this 20 inch snap on tin roofing.”  

“The main buildings are: the poolside cottage, which is now completed,  the pool house and the pool area, which is completed. They’re just finishing up the lodge and they’ve also beautifully renovated the laundry and shower facility.”

“We want to reopen in 2024 as the resort ran in the past, that means we need a pool and a hot tub. The pool and hot tub were closed in the past due to a variety of issues. One of them being not enough certified staff who knows how to handle the chemicals in the pool. On the other hand, there are some regulations that changed in regards to the valves that are to be used, the main drains that have to be elevated so that there is no suction possible and  some signage that we just had to update.” 

“We are at the point where the construction permit is approved by Island Health.  The construction team will be showing up in the next few days actually. They promised me September 3rd and we’ll do the minor changes. We’ll get the signs printed and we will reopen the hot tub for the winter. We will work on the pool, though, to keep it chemically stable so that we can open it up in, I would say, June of next year for the public.”

Ron Buchhorn: “And you’ve replaced all the pool water.” 

Marco Bedetti: “We’ve replaced the entire pool water, yes. We’ve drained the pool completely, which hasn’t been done in 14 years. We put 40,000 litres of that water into our fire fighting system, so we wouldn’t waste it all, and then refilled the pool very, very slowly to accommodate the wells being able to pump the water in there.”

“The other most important thing for reopening is food and beverage options. We don’t have a restaurant anymore.  Building and planning a restaurant from my point of view takes more than one year, but we needed a solution for our customers and also for the community to be able to come by and just grab and eat something very quickly.”

“The way we handled it this summer was to create a deli section for the store. We had two amazing gals that were making sandwiches all day and trying to heat up samosas and just have something for our guests. We’ve decided to buy a new food truck. The food truck build will start in a week. It will be delivered by December, and I hope I can get it running with an entire crew with testing phase in May, definitely by June, 7 days a week.  I would love to keep it open all year round, the only thing to evaluate here is  to see if there is enough business to do so.”

Cortes Currents: You said building a restaurant takes more than one year, is QXMC planning to build a restaurant at the Gorge?

Ron Buchhorn: “Yes, we’ve actually retained an architect to do a design for a new restaurant, but we’re looking at probably a minimum of three years out by the time we go through the permitting process and select construction people.  It’ll be a beautiful restaurant, but in the interim we have the food truck and when the restaurant is built  I’m told there’s a market for the food truck down at Squirrel Cove if we have the RV park down there.”

Cortes Currents: What plans do you have for the store?

Marco Bedetti: “The main goal for the store is that we want to provide the same, if not better quality of the goods and services that we do, but we want to reach a lower cost, especially for the community. One of the things that we’re thinking about as well is a possible 10% off senior day. Now, many stores do that on a Monday. We maybe would like to choose another day, provided that’s allowed. In the end,  we want to be the best store on the island.”

Cortes Currents: What about your plans for installing a new gas pump?

Marco Bedetti: “I’m excited, and it’s about time. The belt broke on the old fuel pump about four times by now. The new fuel pump is really necessary because the old one doesn’t even have parts made for it anymore. So we can’t fix it. As far as I’m up to date with how the project is going, we should have the new pump installed by October 1st.”

“It will be installed at the same location, but with the possibility that if we were to move some of our services on other ends of the property, it can just be moved over.  It also has the capability of doing two transactions or two pumpings at the time.” 

Cortes Currents: Is there any chance you’re going to be building a whole new garage?

Marco Bedetti: “Not in the immediate future.”

Ron Buchhorn: “We’re going to focus on the new Squirrel Cove station. That’ll have four pumps. Once we’re done that project, we’ll do another business case on whether we should actually look at a store and a gas station up along the road giving us more proximity to the ferry traffic that comes in, and making it easier for people on the island to shop there. That’s why Marco says not immediately, but certainly after we complete the Squirrel Cove project we’ll be looking at that.”

This is the first of a series of articles about QXMC. In part two Chair Buckhorn gave an overview of what’s been happening at Squirrel Cove.

Top photo credit: Site of the former Floathouse Restaurant overlooking Gorge Harbour – Photo courtesy Roy L Hales

Sign-up for Cortes Currents email-out:

To receive an emailed catalogue of articles on Cortes Currents, send a (blank) email to subscribe to your desired frequency: