The legend of Eddy Haymour: How Rattlesnake island almost became a theme park - InfoNews

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The legend of Eddy Haymour: How Rattlesnake island almost became a theme park

All that's left of the Eddie Haymour theme park
June 19, 2019 - 7:00 AM

KELOWNA - It may seem impossible to imagine now, but not too far back in the valley’s history, plans to build a theme park on a small Okanagan Lake island were actually taking shape.

In 1970 a man named Eddy Haymour bought Rattlesnake Island, a five-acre parcel of land that is now part of Okanagan Mountain Park, with the intention of building a Moroccan Shadou-style attraction that reflected his Lebanese heritage.

There were plans for a mini Taj Mahal, a three-storey camel that would have served ice cream from its belly, rides and a whole host of tourism-focused fun.

As local explorers are well aware, he made some progress on the project and it still scars otherwise rugged terrain.

“He was able to build a pyramid on top of the park, a camel’s head, and a minigolf course before he was stopped,” said Don Wilson of the Peachland museum.

“I haven’t been there for many years, but the last time I was there it was a foundation where the pyramid was that remained. It had stayed up for a long time before someone took it down. There’s also evidence of a roadway there.”

Wilson, who is the keeper of the small town’s history, was also friends with Haymour and remembers his efforts fondly.

Haymour had a barbershop in Peachland, and Wilson remembered that he would take his barge to the island and back every day as he started to get the theme park plans underway and  he was one of the people who delighted in his efforts.

“Obviously, though, that was a big plan and he ran into all sorts of difficulties with it,” he said.

In part, funding big dreams can be tough. Also, not all of his fellow Peachlanders were on board.

“I think the majority of people weren’t opposed to it,” said Wilson. “But some people were. It’s like when you cut down a tree and some people say ‘what a good view’ and others say ‘how could you do that?’”

The province seemed to fall on the latter side, and among other things, passed building regulations that stopped Haymour from completing the project. Sewage system plans were rejected and the ministry also blocked access to the dock serving the island.

In July 1973, Haymour was in dire financial need and suffering from mental stress from all the forces, both government and private, working against him. He offered to sell the property to a neighbour who was suing him for $146,000. The offer was refused.

Later that year Haymour was charged with threatening to send a letter bomb to former B.C. premier W.A.C. Bennett, although evidence of this threat didn’t materialize. And after being held for extensive psychiatric examination, he wanted to plead guilty to the lingering charges, but the Crown urged the provincial court to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

“The powers that be wanted him out of there and that’s what it was,” said Wilson. 

In July 1974 he had been in custody for seven months and had just learned his wife was divorcing him, his life was in ruins and the island property was being foreclosed on. The government then had Haymour sign the deed for the island for $40,000 and he was transferred to Riverview mental hospital. He was later released and went to Lebanon.

With five cousins, he held about 20 hostages at the Canadian Embassy in Beirut for a week. Nobody was injured, but it may have been one of the most high profile stories in Okanagan history, let alone Canada.

“That’s what everybody knows about him,” said Wilson, pointing out there are a number of books and news stories about the incident. “Because of the embassy problem in Lebanon, he’s become well known.”

Eventually, Haymour sued the government for basically taking away his property at a steal of a deal, arguing if he was insane he shouldn't have been able to enter the negotiations with the province and if he wasn't he shouldn't have been incarcerated. 

More than 10 years later he won $105,000 for ”wrongful and deliberate acts by the government.” The British Columbia Supreme Court awarded him $150,000 the year before.

WIth that money "Haymour pried from them” Wilson said he built what is now known as Peachland castle. He had big plans for that, as well, but he left it because he couldn’t afford to make payments.

Wilson spoke with Haymour in the last year, noting that he’s frail and old these days, but always up for a “good chat about old times and what things were like.”

“I always liked him and he’s still a very colourful person,” he said. “When there’s controversy, people become larger than life. And basically he was just a nice guy. He loved his children and he married twice…. But that’s a different story.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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