Council not embracing Tourism Vancouver Island trail plan

Ucluelet has shied away from buying into Tourism Vancouver Island’s new trails strategy, at least until 2015’s budget discussions.

Ucluelet’s council reviewed a letter last week from Tourism Vancouver Island (TVI) president Dave Petryk asking for financial support for phase one of TVI’s threephase trails strategy.

With $30,000 of Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) funding in hand, TVI is asking each community and regional district on the Island to contribute $2,500 towards phase one, according to Petryk.

His letter explained phase one will lay the strategy’s foundation towards building an inventory of trails and their attributes to help hike-minded visitors make informed choices of which landscapes to head into.

He cited facilitating potential collaboration between traildeveloping communities as well as deterring duplication as phase one’s key goals.

Tofino’s municipal council had reviewed the same request the week prior and agreed to make the

$2,500 investment but their Ucluelet counterparts were lukewarm to the idea.

Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving said

the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District is also being asked to support the initiative to the same $2,500 tune.

“This is a Vancouver Island regional initiative and it’s a little bit odd they’re approaching regional districts and communities all to contribute the same amount,”

he said.

Coun. Dario Corlazzoli touted the strategy as a “worthy cause” and pushed for Ucluelet’s participation.

“We have a lot to showcase, and to be involved with this whole process there’s definitely links that will benefit Ucluelet,” he said.

“It’s going to be a good resource for many communities and we’ll have the opportunity to basically showcase what we’ve done in our community so I think it’s something we should definitely be involved with.”

Coun. Geoff Lyons said he needed clarity on what the money would be spent on before committing $2,500, and he feared Ucluelet would be paying to improve trails in other communities.

“We’ve spent an enormous amount of money creating a (Wild Pacific) Trail and now the beancounter in me says we’re providing money to others to compete with us,” he said.

“I know we should think globally and all this stuff but I’m a little hesitant to say ‘let’s ante up $2,500’ from a budget of 2014 that we’ve already closed and finished so, I think, it warrants a bit more discussion in 2015.”

Coun. Sally Mole wondered if 2015’s budget talks would fit within TVI’s timeline or if Ucluelet risked missing the boat by holding off on a decision.

She noted Tofino had already committed to the $2,500 investment.

Corlazzoli said Ucluelet had time to plot a course but suggested district staff get in touch with TVI in case any deadlines for commitment exist.

He disagreed with Lyons’ interpretation of the strategy. “It’s not helping people build trails, it’s trying to get trails so that they’re consistent, so that people have an expectation of what trails are on Vancouver Island and, I think, it’s important that we’re involved with that.”

Lyons suggested the Wild Pacific Trail Society could make Ucluelet a player in the strategy’s development rather than just an investor. “There may something in this funding where the trail society could actually be hired to provide some consultation,” he said. “Maybe, if the funding is out there, we could actually take benefit from the work we’ve already contributed.”

Council agreed to consider the $2,500 investment during 2015’s budget discussions and to seek input from the Wild Pacific Trail Society.

Irving expressed one last piece of concern by suggesting TVI’s request would lock Ucluelet into multiple years of funding.

“The thing that always worries me is when you read that sentence ‘we’re seeking financial support of $2,500 for phase one’ and there’s three phases,” he said.

“This is a commitment that we’d need to think about a little bit because it’s going to take money out of other things, so I’m glad it’s being referred to our budget discussion.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca