To Gloria Corno, 108 Mile Ranch was a fairyland.
It was 1970 and Block Bros. Realty was in the midst of turning the former Monical Ranch into a “destination resort” where recreation facilities and residential properties went hand-in-hand.
There were just eight permanent residents when Corno and her husband arrived. They added one more when Corno gave birth to the first baby born in the new community.
“It was going to be a summer job, but we loved it and decided to stay,” she says.
Within a year, the population had jumped to 12. An airstrip was built to bring in potential buyers to tour the properties and 900 lots were sold - the most expensive at $8,250.
In 1972, an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, swimming pool, restaurant and lounge, and a 20-room lodge were completed. The hub of the community was the 108 Mile tennis club, Corno recalls. The community would also have dances on Saturday night.
“It’s quite remarkable to think about what was available in the beginning,” she says. “It was like a playground, it had so many things and it was fun and you got to meet people so quickly. The thing that I found magical was there was a very close-knit community in the 108. It was nice to rely on each other and others in the community.”
Today, 108 Mile Ranch has 2,900 residents - a more densely populated community than nearby 100 Mile House. It also has its own supermarket, community hall, two churches, a golf course and riding stables, gas station, restaurants as well as the 108 Mile Heritage Site and museum and various home-based businesses.
A 1,500-acre Greenbelt, as well as a recreational easement, gives residents the opportunity to hike, cross-country ski, horseback ride and bicycle the area’s three lakes in their own backyard.
Phil Roux who worked for Block Bros. recreational department as a salesperson, says 108 Mile Ranch could have been even bigger and better. The original plan was to develop the whole 2,600 acres of the 108, including the lands across the highway.
Instead, it “became one of the ‘bedrooms’ of 100 Mile House” along with all the other areas being developed, like Horse Lake.
“Unfortunately when they did it, it was just a little ahead of its time. A little early, a little premature. If it had been later, it would have gone well.”
When he and his wife Janet arrived at 108 Mile Ranch in 1971, Roux says none of the roads were paved with the exception of the one branching off the highway, and they were only cleared sometimes in wintertime.
Their first home was a small cabin on Block Drive overlooking Watson Lake. The area was pretty remote and it didn’t even have a water system. Once a week tanker trucks brought water to residents’ lots.
“It was pretty interesting and pretty rustic,” Roux said. “It was fun to watch it grow to what it is.”
Al Richmond, director for Electoral Area G (108 Mile-Lac La Hache), remembers the frenzy of being involved in creating a new development.
He helped to preserve the 108 Mile Greenbelt by working with the Cariboo Regional District to manage and preserve the land, through covenants, for the community.
Now he’s trying to keep up with the growth.
The CRD put in a water treatment plant to deal with the manganese issue in the community’s water supply. The regional district is also planning to improve the community’s trail systems and install a new bridge near the 108 Greenbelt.
Richmond says he believes the community will support a proposed new South Cariboo Recreation and Culture service that could potentially bring an squatic centre to the region.
He says many of his constituents, young and old, believe access to a pool would improve their quality of life and provide a year-round activity for children. If it did go ahead it would likely be in 100 Mile.
The CRD plans to hold a referendum on the service next year.
In the meantime, Ingrid Meyer, president of the 108 Mile Ranch Community Association, says she would love to see more activities for people in the community today - from exercise stations to pickleball courts and a playground for the main beach.
The association recently added a fishing dock at the beach, which has become a popular addition.
“I am working together with Slapback Music to bring more concerts or music there,” Meyer says.
Although the population of 108 Mile has increased, Corno says it still feels like a small town.
“We had everything here which was a wonderful thing to have access here; usually in small communities, you don’t,” Corno says.
“The beauty of the 108 is it’s certainly grown population-wise, but it still feels like a bit of a wonderland. We can still enjoy everything we had in the beginning.”