Poole’s Land finale: Tofino’s legendary ‘hippie commune’ being dismantled

Poole’s Land finale: Tofino’s legendary ‘hippie commune’ being dismantled

Series of land-use fines inspire owner Michael Poole to sell the roughly 20-acre property.

Poole’s Land is shutting down.

The travellers and residents that made up the famous, controversial and longstanding “eco-village” or “hippie commune” community on the outskirts of Tofino have largely dispersed. The structures they stayed and lived in are being torn down, according to Michael Poole, who owns the roughly 20-acre property.

“They’re both the very best who are staying to help me clean up this mess, the true friends, and then there’s the ones who just really can’t seem yet to manage. People who just can’t operate in the usual world and love it here,” Poole said.

“It’s all transforming. We’re cleaning the board for a new era to begin, whatever it is…I’ve been the garbage man here and I don’t want to be in charge of anything anymore. I’ve had it. It was good, but I’m kind of burned out on it, honestly; more than burned out.”

Poole purchased the property in 1988. What it became began to take shape about a year later as people began visiting and staying.

“There were the really intelligent, the best travellers and university educated people that really came from good families and then there were the ones coming from totally broken situations with no education and poor working skills and all of that, so it’s been dynamic let’s say,” he said. “It turned into some kind of experience for people and I guess the town at first saw it as staff accommodation.”

He estimated the land hosted upward of 100 people in any given day during Tofino’s busy summer months and perpetually carried a varied reputation, from being heralded for the desperately needed staff housing it provided, to being slammed for its loose laws and perceived illegal activity.

“Whenever anybody does anything, there’s always a bell curve of responses. Many of the people still in Tofino got their start here because there was nowhere else to get a foothold in order to get a job and to stay. Even among that group, there’s a bunch of different responses,” he said.

READ MORE: Where would all the workers stay without Poole’s Land?

He believes it was the affordable accommodation his land offered that allowed Poole’s Land to exist with little government intervention, despite its illegality, for over 30 years. He also said he was already itching to move on before Tofino’s district office began handing him fines this past summer.

“I’ve thanked [Tofino’s fire chief and manager of protective services] Brent Baker many times for giving the three fines of $1,000 each, that really got my attention. At first, I thought, ‘Oh well, they’re just rattling sabers because they have to,’ but then I realized, no, this is real and I said ‘Thank you. This is so good. Now I get to quit this crummy job cleaning up after world travellers,’” Poole said. “I’m fully dedicated now. I know I’ve run around the bush many times, but now it’s time to sell the place…I’m out.”

Baker has been with the district office for over three years and told the Westerly that he had not received a formal complaint about Poole’s Land, so the complaint-driven bylaw enforcement process had not been triggered, until early 2019.

“We don’t respond to complaints via Facebook and those sorts of things. When people sit down and take the time to go through the process, then we absolutely follow up with our process,” he said. “Sometimes it can be a lengthy process and we have to work our way through it, make sure that we’re doing all our due diligence, but that was the case here and hopefully we end up with a positive outcome.”

READ MORE: Complaints lead to shutdown of Tofino Travellers Guesthouse

He said the three $1,000 fines were related to zoning infractions after an investigation determined that Poole was operating a campground illegally, though the primary focus of the Poole’s Land crac down was centered around health and safety. He added that the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department has responded to two vehicle fires and one structure fire at the property in 2019.

“This process has been ongoing for about a year because we set out with the goal of voluntary compliance,” he said, adding that Poole has been exemplary in his cooperation.

“Every engagement that I’ve had with Michael Poole has been very positive, very pleasant, he was very welcoming to myself or any other agencies that I brought along with me. He always greeted us as friendly as anybody you might imagine.”

Poole has looked into selling the property before and said he’s now committed to seeing that sale through, suggesting he’s received offers on the land for around $3 million.

READ MORE: Tofino’s ‘Poolesland’ up for sale

He said he plans to help the Tofino Habitat Society with crowd funding or other means to try to buy the land from him, but added that it’s likely a developer will purchase it.

“There’s two options, one is that our society buys it and the other is that some rich developer buys it,” he said. “Whatever happens, from now on, it will have to comply with the bylaws of Tofino, which doesn’t really fit at all with our society and it’s very unlikely that a rag-tag crew could pull it together. It’s going to take some real savvy.”

He added that he is skeptical about the society’s ability to take it on.

“I, really, very much doubt that it’s going to go that way,” he said. “I’d say that this is ending and just going to get sold to someone typical.”

He said he’d like to see the land used for educational purposes, particularly to test out alternative energy and living methods, rather than be developed in a traditional sense.

“I’ve got about a month to decide finally. And, in that month, we are going to put it out that this is over and what can happen next and see if there’s any interest out there from anywhere to do a really good job here, instead of the usual money-grubbing cement works,” he said.

READ MORE: Supportive and low-income housing doesn’t hurt nearby property values, B.C. study says

He added that if the land does go to a developer, he plans to put at least $100,000 from the sale of Poole’s Land towards helping the society purchase an Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District lot near the West Coast landfill between Tofino and Ucluelet where, he believes, the residents who relied on Poole’s Land will be safely distanced from public and municipal scrutiny.

“That, I believe, is the perfect halfway point where staff accommodation and food security meet in harmony. There’s no neighbours out there,” he said. “That takes the whole problem of staff accommodation out of Tofino and Ucluelet…It’s large enough to be a small town of its own.”

He added though that he does not plan to be involved in the management of the potential new site.

“I won’t be part of all that. I’ll be a visitor like everybody else. I don’t want to run anything. I don’t want to own anything. I’m going into my so called sadhu stage, which is when you divest of everything and let go of it all,” he said. “Ideally, right now, it will be up to the board of directors of the Tofino Habitat Society.”

Poole noted Oct. 7 marked the 31st anniversary of Poole’s Land and said he’s excited to spend more time travelling.

“I became old here. From 37 to 68 this all happened and I stopped being a traveller to become landed. Now, I’m going back to being a traveller again,” he said, adding he plans to explore and invest in other unique communities that he finds.

“To try and just add some good kitchens and quality food processing here and there,” he said.



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

An online post caused some concern after two former Olympian skiers visited Rossland despite the city and provincial health recommendations to stay and play local.
Rossland man responds to Olympian ski controversy

A visit to Rossland by former Olympic gold medalists has created controversy for local man

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Interior Health reported 43 new COVID-19 cases in the region Feb. 23, 2021 and no additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
43 new cases of COVID reported in Interior Health

No new deaths, Williams Lake outbreak over

Construction for a new pharmacy and ambulatory care unit is underway on the second floor of the newly completed KBRH wing. Photo: Howard Regnier
Work begins on next phase of Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital redevelopment

This next phase of work is on target to finish up in 2023

Photo: Submitted
New year, new wheels for Trail Association for Community Living

The new vehicle is a 2020 Ford Transit converted with wheelchair lift and accessories

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after a news conference at the legislature in Victoria on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. reports 559 new cases of COVID-19, one death

4,677 cases of the virus remain active in the province; 238 people are in hospital

Vancouver Canucks left wing Antoine Roussel (26) tries to get a shot past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks cough up 3-0 lead, fall 4-3 to visiting Edmonton Oilers

Vancouver falls to 8-13-2 on the NHL season

Jessica McCallum-Miller receives her signed oath of office from city chief administrative officer Heather Avison on Nov. 5, 2018 after being elected to Terrace City Council. McCallum-Miller resigned on Feb. 22, 2021, saying she felt unsupported and unheard by council. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace’s 1st Indigenous councillor resigns citing ‘systemic and internalized racism,’ sexism

McCallum-Miller said in a Facebook post she felt unheard and unsupported by council

Temporary changes to allow for wholesale pricing for the hospitality industry were implemented June 2020 and set to expire March 31.	(Pixabay photo)
Pubs, restaurants to pay wholesale prices on liquor permanently in COVID-recovery

Pre-pandemic, restaurateurs and tourism operators paid full retail price on most liquor purchases

Wade Dyck with Luna, a dog who went missing near the Chasm for 17 days following a rollover on Feb. 5. (Photo submitted).
Dog missing for 17 days through cold snap reunited with owner in northern B.C.

Family ecstatic to have the Pyrenees-Shepherd cross back home.

Quesnel RCMP confirmed they are investigating a residential break-in at a home on the Barkerville Highway. (File image)
Thieves make off with $300K in Cariboo miner’s retirement gold

Tim Klemen is offering a reward for the return of his gold

Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire. Image: The Canadian Press
Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell makes third attempt at bail on sex charges

Maxwell claims she will renounce her U.K. and French citizenships if freed

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Feds agree people with mental illness should have access to MAID — in 2 years

This is one of a number of changes to Bill C-7 proposed by the government

Most Read