Marina addition not looking likely for now

A lot of businesses struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, but campgrounds generally did not, and Big Fish Bay Resort at Slave Lake was one that thrived. Expansion efforts continued right through that period, bringing us to the 2023 season.

“It’s been amazing,” says Big Fish Bay manager Edie Klassen, speaking of the summer so far.

The resort is certainly living up to the ‘big’ part of its name. As of last year it had expanded to 450 sites, 45 of which are cabins. The newest phase of expansion (Phase IV) is in an open area in the southwest part of the property. A lot of the 3,500 trees that have been planted recently are in that area, so it won’t be as open for too many more years.

The open area is also where two new water slides and a pool have been added. These have been getting quite a bit of attention lately, which is what brought us out to the resort on Aug. 4 to take pictures.

Phase IV, Klassen says, is 150 sites. Judging from the aerial photos that Big Fish Bay recently put online, the lack of tree cover hasn’t hurt bookings!

Klassen says the cabins and all the other sites are available, year-round.

So just how big is the impact on the Slave Lake economy? It’s hard to say, but at 75 per cent full, say, and assuming an average of three people per site, it would mean over 1,000 extra people in town (or at least near town) on a busy weekend. Klassen says the numbers were considerably higher than that on the August long weekend.

“I would say it has done me nothing but good,” says Joee Mayston, of Southshore Hidden Treasures, which is conveniently located on Caribou Trail. “On rainy, crappy days, people are down here shopping.”

Even more conveniently located to the big campground is Dog Island Brewery. The company keeps no figures on the impact, but regular customer Ken Jardine says “campers are finding their way on foot, on bikes and vehicle. There are others that stop as they’re driving by to get beer for their stay.”

Klassen says she’s heard similar encouraging news from other businesses in town.

The economic impact would likely be that much greater, should Big Fish Bay succeed in finding its way to add a marina. However, that seems to be at some sort of impasse. Here’s what the owners of the resort have to say about it, as relayed to The Leader by Klassen last week.

“Big Fish Bay has attempted to purchase land from the town. The town is not interested in selling the land.

“The ownership of Big Fish Bay is not interested in investing in a $20 million project on land they do not own.”

However, the statement continues, should the town build the marina, “Big Fish Bay would gladly manage it for them.”

The town is obviously not going to spend that kind of money, even if it wanted to. As for the idea of selling the land to Big Fish Bay, Town of Slave Lake CAO Jeff Simpson confirmed last week the town has no intention to sell the land. Even if the town did for some reason want to get rid of it, the province has first right of refusal on it, he said.

According to the agreement between the town and the operator, the town gets a percentage of the income (“significant,” Simpson calls it), as a sort of lease payment.

Klassen says there was a Canada-wide study on spending by campers not long ago that came up with an average daily spending figure of $131. That would be double or even triple, she says, with a marina.

However, the way things look now, it won’t be happening.

Part of Phase IV of the Big Fish Bay resort, in the foreground, with the pond they would like to turn into a marina one day.
Photo courtesy of Big Fish Bay
Slippery slope!The new water slide at Big Fish Bay is so big you have to squint to see somebody at the far end of it. That’s Zander from Lamont just launching himself down the slide, on Aug. 5.

by Joe McWilliams

This item copyrighted by / Lakeside Leaader   Slave Lake, Alberta

Comments are Welcome - Use the 'Join the Discussion' above any replies, or 'TheRegional / Chat' below replies. Both links take you to the same place. You will be asked to become a registered user if you are not one already - Posts are moderated