Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin
Special to the Tribune/Advisor
Boitanio Park was a triumph of Williams Lake’s citizens who wanted to maintain and insure the wishes of Roderick Mackenzie were followed.
Originally, Boitanio Park was the site of a Shuswap village, probably one that was used in the winter months because there are the ruins of pit houses.
After the First Nations left the area it was used as a pasture before the PGE bought the land. Roderick Mackenzie bought much of the land where the park now sits in the early 1920s. It was purchased from the PGE as a gift to the newly-formed village of Williams Lake.
Mackenzie gave the land to the village with the stipulation that it was to be used as a golf course, but if and when the time came that it was no longer used for the purpose that it was to become a park.
It was the Williams Lake Golf Course for nearly three decades. After the golf course was developed on the other side of town the old course was just abandoned.
In 1967, Premier W.A.C. Bennett was presented with a petition that had been circulated around town by the Old Age Pensioners Association (OAPO) with the request that the golf course land be declared a park and control of it given over to the people of Williams Lake.
He gave the 55 acres, which the parkland had grown into at a meeting later that day.
After two years with no changes to the park made by town council, a group of people came together in an effort to improve the area as a Centennial Project. Council accepted the idea so local efforts for fundraising and improvements began.
At this time it was also determined that the park did not yet have a name.
A name the park contest was organized during Stampede. Boitanio was chosen for Antoine Boitanio, the oldest calf roper and a resident of Williams Lake since 1928.
The park now had a name and the work was coming along very well.
There was the development of a small stream and bridge as well as the construction of the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Memorial Amphitheatre.
By the late 1970s all the work done for the Centennial had fallen into disrepair and the park was no longer the gorgeous piece of parkland it once was.
Chunks of the property had been sold off throughout the years, Boitanio Mall taking a large section, as well as Kiwanis Park, provincial buildings and the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.
In 1974, officials from the provincial archaeology department and three members of the Sugar Cane Band excavated at the site where Boitanio Mall was being built, looking for what appeared to be pit houses.
The provincial archaeologists became interested in the site when bones were discovered during excavation of the site by developers.
By the time the department was notified of the find the bones had been disposed of and the site destroyed.
Since the 1980s great efforts have been taken in the city to improve the park.
The Gwen Ringwood Memorial Amphitheatre was torn down and reconstructed and the Parks people have been making strides in improving the park’s overall appeal.
Communities in Bloom has two gardens recognizing sister cities adding to the variety of flowers found in the park. Concerts in the park has also done a great deal to bring people into the park.
The Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin supplies this history of Williams Lake as part of the city’s 85th anniversary year. A celebration is planned for May 3.