Takhini Hot Springs pitches new plans

The Takhini Hot Springs site, one of the territory's most popular tourist attractions, will turn into a bigger facility with multiple pools and a Nordic spa surrounded by a four-kilometre walking trail.

The Takhini Hot Springs site, one of the territory’s most popular tourist attractions, will turn into a bigger facility with multiple pools and a Nordic spa surrounded by a four-kilometre walking trail.

That’s if all goes according to plan for Garry Umbrich, president of Takhini Hot Springs Ltd., who presented the project to about 20 people at an open house on Monday evening.

Umbrich and his wife Carla Pitzel, who own four of the 10 lots on the site, want to transform the hot springs from their current incarnation as a concrete recreational pool to a more natural-looking setting.

The resort plans have been in the works for over 15 years, Umbrich explained, but gathered more steam after major renovations were made to the existing pools and buildings in 2008.

That included replacing the fencing, building a new roof and renovating the change rooms.

The goal is to build something that is more similar to what’s found at the Liard Hot Springs in northern British Columbia, he said Monday evening.

“We want to get back to nature with the look of the springs,” Umbrich said.

The new design will see the construction of three or four smaller pools with temperatures between 40 and 42 degrees. In comparison, the current pools are between 35 and 39 degrees.

One pool, reserved for families, will be slightly cooler and have chlorinated water.

Another area will feature a sauna, steam room and relaxation room, where visitors will pay a “slight up-charge” to access those facilities.

Another pool will be available for rent, Umbrich said.

Most of that parcel of land, about one hectare in size, will be enclosed in a fence that won’t be visible from any of the pools.

The pools will be connected to each other by covered walkways.

The new pipelines carrying the water from the spring to the pools will be insulated so there won’t be a drop in the temperature, Umbrich said.

There won’t be an interruption in service, either, when the current building and pools shut down and the new ones open.

“If one closes Sunday night the other opens Monday morning,” he said, adding that construction should be completed by June 2018.

That won’t be the end of development, however.

In the future, the site may feature other amenities such as a bakery, pub or laundromat. It might also include greenhouses and gardens on the site to grow food.

But the ultimate goal would be to one day build a five-diamond high-end destination spa, Umbrich said, one that would “put Yukon on the world map.”

“It’s a big ticket item, and we’re not holding our breath,” he added. “But market studies have shown this would fly in the Yukon – provided it’s five-diamond.”

There are only seven five-diamond facilities in Canada, according to the American Automobile Association, the organization that developed the rating system.

There is already a lot of activity going on at the hot springs site these days.

Six of the 10 lots on the site have been sold to numbered companies, Umbrich explained on Monday. Several of the owners were present at the meeting.

Together, they’ve created an owners’ association meant to “protect the integrity of the resort.”

Christian Berneche, for example, said on Monday he still wasn’t sure what he wanted to build on his lot. But it might include yurts or conference facilities.

Another lot, owned by Takhini Hot Springs Ltd., is a 30-hectare parcel of land where there are staff cabins and a cell tower. Eventually there might be an observatory there, Umbrich said.

Andrew Umbrich and Lauren O’Coffey run the campground and hostel. They plan on opening the territory’s first escape room, an adventure game where people are locked in a room with other participants and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit.

That business is set to open in May, Umbrich said.

The couple also leases and runs the hot pools from Takhini Hot Springs Ltd. under the separate name of Takhini Hot Pools.

Some residents of the area have accused Umbrich of failing to consult with them over his development plans.

In the past, Umbrich has accused residents of holding secret meetings and meddling in his affairs.

One point of contention has been whether Umbrich has the right to cluster a large number of residences on a single lot.

According to the Hot Springs Road local area plan, up to two residences are allowed on a single lot. But the zoning also allows for the owners of adjoining lots to transfer this allowance, resulting in more than two residences on a single lot.

Tempers flared during a constituency meeting with MLA Brad Cathers in November as residents of his riding slammed doors and yelled at each other over ongoing development at the Takhini Hot Springs.

Monday’s open house was a much calmer affair.

Umbrich said development would take place in areas that are already cleared and disturbed.

“If we’re successful in implementing these projects you won’t see most of the developments,” he said.

“We want to keep the forest in as natural a state as possible.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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