By Breanne Massey

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

An Indigenous tourism operator has found creative ways to cater to campers in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Akisqnuk First Nation member Faro Burgoyne, 27, and his partner Emily Slobodzian, 27, opened the business approximately two years ago after building the amenities required to overlook the wetlands of the Columbia Valley.

“We have a beautiful piece of property and have known forever that the valley demands more campsites,” said Burgoyne, noting the Spruce Grove campground was temporarily closed for the pandemic this season.

The Raven’s Nest Resort and Campground located in Fairmont opened the proverbial door in February of 2019, both owners recognizing the need for campgrounds in southeastern B.C. due to the availability of options during summers.

During the first season, the resort and campground were operational. The open period was restricted to the month of August and early-September because the majority of the summer was spent setting up the facilities.

Over the course of the summer during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Raven’s Nest Resort and Campground were booked fully nearly every weekend. The facility provided guests with sanitizer and had cleaning supplies available in outhouses for anyone who wanted access to it.

“We had lots of good feedback,” said Burgoyne about the end of the season. “People loved the site and people loved us. We had lots of good interactions from visitors. We had lots of word of mouth marketing of people who came here and had a good experience and recommended us to others. We had lots of return visitors as well. People were excited to have a place to go too.”

This year, in 2020, the duo’s business won the Tourism Business of the Year award from the All Nations Trust Company.

“We’re just north of Fairmont on the westside of the Highway, overlooking the wetlands where the river opens up,” said Slobodzian. “Right before Lake Windermere opens up, and we’re on a bit of a close edge, so you can see all of the wetlands, over the train tracks and the Purcells down over to the Rockies. It’s really, really nice. We have a great view.”

There are currently 42 regular campsites and two group campsites offered seasonally to outdoor enthusiasts, but Burgoyne and Slobodzian are in the process of discussing reducing the property to provide guests with more privacy. Their goal is to open the campground in May of 2021 for bookings. If the pandemic permits, the duo would like to offer a safe open house for the community to visit the property and tour its offerings.

“We spent our summer building eight log cabins on the campsite as well. Hopefully for next year, we’ll have eight log cabins to rent out,” said Slobodzian. “Maybe we’ll have 30 campsites and eight cabins.”

The renovations are ongoing and are expected to be completed before the next season of operation.

For more information about the campground, please visit: www.ravensnestresort.com. To contact the owners for a free tour of the resort in the spring, please e-mail them at: business@ravensnestresort.com.