Tofino council buys into Island-wide trails strategy

Tofino’s municipal council unanimously agreed to buy a $2,500 ticket to Tourism Vancouver Island’s new trails strategy.

Tourism Vancouver Island (TVI) president Dave Petryk sent a letter to council explaining that TVI had received a $30,000 grant from the Island Coastal Economic Trust and is looking for matching funds to kick off phase one of its threephase trails strategy.

His letter suggests every municipality within the Vancouver Island region is being asked for the same $2,500 sum.

“Phase 1 of this trails project will become the foundation that guides the way to a well-defined trails strategy,” Petryk wrote. “The inventory will be a searchable database of the highest potential trails and will define a set of key attributes that assist us in understanding what is required to ensure that trails within the regions provide visitors and local residents with exceptional experiences.”

Along with this inventory, phase one’s key goals are to establish communication between communities engaged in trail development, and identify groups currently investing in trail developments to assess duplication or appetites for collaboration, according to Petryk.

Coun. Cathy Thicke was thrilled with the idea of bringing attention to the West Coast’s impressive trail network.

“We have world class trails here,” she said noting Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail was named TripAdvisor’s top Vancouver Island attraction.

Thicke also cited the Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino’s Tonquin Trail and Ahousaht’s Walk the Wild Side Trail.

“There’s very few places in the world that can touch what we have to offer here and I think being part of this strategy is a really good investment,” she said. “It’s a very small amount of money for a potentially large gain for all of us.”

Mayor Josie Osborne asked whether the district had $2,500 available in its budget and the Tofino’s Resort Municipality

Initiative (RMI) Services Manager April Froment responded that RMI money could be used.

The RMI program is run by BC’s ministry of tourism with each resort municipality receiving annual funding that must almost exclusively be spent on projects that promote tourism or enhance a community’s tourist experience.

“The (trails) project does align well with our resort development strategy goals and there is funding allocated through water access and beach improvements in the 2014 budget for trail development so potentially the funds could come from there,” Froment said.

Coun. Al Anderson wondered whether buying into phase one locked the district into financially supporting the next two phases of TVI’s strategy and asked if Tourism Tofino was a more appropriate funding source than the district.

Froment responded that destination-marketing organizations like Tourism Tofino would come into play in the next two phases of the project.

Coun. Garth Cameron expressed strong opposition to the idea but did not vote against it.

“This is just a $2,500 advertising campaign for trails that we already have in our district,” he said. “I don’t agree with it.”

He agreed with Thicke that the West Coast’s trails are “a jewel” but wondered what good would come of the $2,500.

“I just think that we’re taking money out of what we have here and throwing it into a regional campaign strategy; it’s just an advertising campaign that we’re going to fork over money to do down the road anyway,” he said.

Baert argued the money would be well spent.

“We have a trails plan so I think if we can be partnering into a larger scale project, the benefits will show themselves as the area becomes a place that’s identified as having a trails network,” Baert said.

“I think it’s a solid investment from a tourism point of view into a future economic opportunity.”

Coun. Duncan McMaster also supported Tofino’s buy-in to the project.

“I don’t think it’s a great deal of money and I think it could lead to a lot of exposure,” he said adding tourists often come to Tofino for the beaches unaware of the community’s trails.

He said Tofino’s participation in TVI’s trail strategy could help the community attract a currently under-tapped tourist clientele of hikers.

reporter@westerlynews.ca