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

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Transfer Beach Dippers have been taking to the waters of Transfer Beach as safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo)
‘Transfer Beach Dippers’ group finds community in the cold water

Dippers tend to dip at 6am, 8:45am, or 6pm at Transfer Beach

John Ambrose Seward, 33, is described as Indigenous and five-foot-eight with short black hair and brown eyes. (Police handout)
John Ambrose Seward, 33, is described as Indigenous and five-foot-eight with short black hair and brown eyes. (Police handout)
High-risk sex offender banned from central Island, living in Vancouver: police

John Ambrose Seward, 33, has been released from prison under a number of conditions

Chemainus Theatre facilities manager Damion Knight at the spot inside the gallery and gift shop where thieves smashed a window and grabbed masks. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Unique masks valued at $1,000 stolen from Chemainus Theatre Gallery

Thieves smash a window and grab the goods early Monday morning

Firefighters, including those from Cranberry volunteer department, are battling a blaze in the Nanaimo River Road area. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Dwelling destroyed, two taken to hospital after Nanaimo River Road blaze

Numerous fire departments and first responders at south Nanaimo area

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Most Read