Pat Corbett likes to tell people his blood is on the 108 Mile Ranch Greenbelt.
A former project manager for Block Brothers in 1975, Corbett oversaw the development of the 108 lands and golf course. But he was also a driving force in preserving 1,500 acres of greenspace for the community residents, as well as a recreational easement where residents could hike, cross-country ski, horseback ride and bicycle the area’s 23,000 acres around its three lakes.
Henry Block supported the ideas. But when he retired, his brother Arthur demanded - three times - that Corbett rescind the plan. Corbett refused and was fired.
“The commitment I made, the integrity behind the commitment, was more important to me than the job and I was willing to lose the job,” Corbett said.
Today, the Greenbelt is a popular amenity in 108 Mile Ranch - a growing community that has its own supermarket, building supply store, airport, a community hall, two resorts, two churches, a golf course and riding stables, unlimited trails, a gas station, restaurants and its own heritage site, as well as various home-based businesses.
Corbett, who went on with his wife Juanita to create the Hills Health Ranch after being fired, was recognized for his efforts this month when the couple was named the 108 Mile Citizens of the Year.
“We thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke,” Corbett said. “We were overwhelmed and shocked with this recognition. We’re so appreciative and thankful to the 108 community.”
The couple beat out three other worthy competitors for the honour, including Liz Jones, Bev French and Ron Soeder. They were chosen by longtime members of the 108 Mile Ranch Community Association, an offshoot of the previous 108 Mile Ranch Property Owners Association.
While Corbett was overseeing the development, Juanita was greeting prospective buyers at the South Cariboo Regional Airport. “I would greet the planes, put you in my vehicle run you around and sell you a couple of lots,” she said.
The lots sold fast, and more people continue to move to the community every year, said association member Ingrid Meyer.
However, the association currently only has about 30 business members and 120 regular members, she said, and they are “always looking for more because I’m sure we have 3,500 people living here.”
The association is responsible for managing the Greenbelt as well as other amenities such as the community hall and the local beaches.
It usually holds an Annual General Meeting in April although this has been postponed following the latest restrictions from Dr. Bonnie Henry. A Breakfast with Santa, Christmas Market and a 108 Business Fair are also among events held each year. The 100 Mile & District Historical Society puts on the Heritage Market. The association is currently running a Mother’s Day raffle to help raise funds to buy a new water tank and pay its annual $12,000 in insurance costs.
Meyer, who hopes to hold an outdoor AGM later this year, urges all 108 Mile residents to sign up with the association and become more involved in the community.
A one-year resident membership is $10 or $35 for five years, while a one-year business membership is $40. Those who want to become involved can call her at 250-791-5663.
“People have no idea how unique the 108 is,” Meyer said. “We need more people to come up with ideas to keep our hall open.”
The Corbetts, active in the 108 Mile community for 45 years, can attest to the community’s allure. The couple fully immersed themselves into the area, becoming big supporters of the tourism industry. Corbett was a leader of the Cariboo Tourist Association, a volunteer firefighter, and organized the Western Premiers BBQ event in 1992 at the 108 Heritage site.
He was also a past president of the 100 Mile & District Historical Society.
Juanita, who was drawn to the area in 1969 because of its beauty and now runs her own home-based business, said she was thrilled to be recognized for the award.
”I don’t think very many of 108 owners here would have any idea of what Pat was able to do for this community that is still in place.”