Ucluelet’s wildly successful Wild Pacific Trail experience is about to expand.
The Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) has announced a $75,000 investment to build a new, roughly two-kilometre, extension that will connect He-Tin-Kis Park to Big Beach and the trail’s Lighthouse Loop.
The trust’s CEO Line Robert told the Westerly News the trail has proven itself to be a powerful lure for attracting tourists and economic activity to the region.
“What we’ve been able to see by looking at the numbers is that the trail has gained popularity on an annual basis,” she said. “Every incremental section that’s been built has helped to attract more people to the area.”
She said the trust’s economic studies suggest the trail’s new section will bring in an additional $2.8 million in revenue.
“This additional trail section would create an anticipated long-term employment impact of about 23 jobs,” she said. “That is three to five years out, when the completion of this section has had a chance to really play itself out.”
She added the trail helps motivate visitors to extend their stays and noted West Coast tourists spend an average of $192 per day.
“We’re expecting that this will continue to grow Ucluelet into the great economic driver that it’s become,” she said.
“It brings more visitors and it brings more wealth to the community and, I think, Ucluelet has been doing this in a very measured and sustainable way and has been ensuring that important community values are maintained in this process and at the same time creating an incredible community amenity.”
She suggested the trail helped diversify Ucluelet’s economy and become a player in BC’s tourism game while also attracting new residents.
“The economy has changed and the trail has been one of the primary motivators for people to visit Ucluelet and that has been verified,” she said. “New residents, many of them are moving to Ucluelet because of the existence of the trail; they went first as tourists and used the trail and then decided to move there based on that.”
She said the trail has also played a key role in new residential and high-end tourism developments.
“These investors are wanting to build by the trail. They’re wanting that as an amenity for their clientele and so it’s a symbiotic relationship in that the trail attracts investment for the community and then the investment wants more trail,” she said.
“Because your community has attracted more of the higher-end markets through these higher end developments, those people are also spending higher amounts of money and dropping that in your community.”
She noted the Wild Pacific Trail consistently ranks as a top attraction on Trip Advisor and brings international tourists to, and through, the region.
“You have people from around the world saying this is a great attraction and that’s why they’re coming here and, if people are traveling to Ucluelet, they’re also traveling through other parts of the region so the benefits flow to other communities,” she said. “The fact that many of these are international tourists means it flows to BC in general, so the impacts of this project go beyond the community of Ucluelet.”
She noted ICET has been an active investor in the trail since its inception in 2006 having dished out $95,000 for new parking infrastructure around the trail in 2007 and $50,000 for the trail’s Ancient Cedars section in 2012.
The trail’s manager and innovator ‘Oyster’ Jim Martin has been thrilled with ICET’s support.
“They have been an outstanding funding partner for the Wild Pacific Trail and have made it easier for us to achieve our goals as far as expansion and refinement of the trail,” Martin told the Westerly. “And, in so doing, they have increased its popularity and exposure that is truly making it the world class trail it deserves to be.”
He said the trail’s popularity continues to rise and, thanks to constant updates, the experience it provides continues to meet and exceed rising expectations.
“It will never disappoint,” he said adding he plans to install a bog walk portion and additional viewpoint expansions this year. “Generally, in the building process as it is now, there’s something new for people to experience, even if they come here three times a year. There’s always something new and interesting for them to discover.”
He added the trail’s setting along Ucluelet’s rocky coastline provides unparalleled viewpoints.
“We do have the most unique stretch of landscape to have the trail by and that sets us apart from any other trail simply because we have the open Pacific Ocean as our backdrop,” he said.
He echoed Roberts’ belief that the trail is a solid source of cash flow for Ucluelet’s economy.
“It’s the number one asset,” he said. “It’s that which will be the economic engine into the future because of its popularity and the tourist draw it provides.”
Along with the stunning oceanic backdrop, Martin said the trail has benefitted from its creative design.
“What’s been transmitted to me from all of the people who come here to walk it is that it’s the nicest, most well maintained, work of art for a trail they’ve ever encountered,” he said.
“They’re actually calling it a work of art, instead of just a trail, because of the way the viewpoints are framed and the way the curved wood accents and augments the experience…Everything that is the Wild Pacific Trail is attractive to them.”
Martin is stoked to see the trail shine in the spotlight this summer.
“We’re already experiencing summertime numbers in March so, unquestionably, it will be a very busy summer for Ucluelet,” he said.
Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques agreed.
“The cumulative impacts of trail development are leaving an important economic legacy in the region,” she said.
“The trail is currently ranked by TripAdvisor as one of the top 5 attractions in all of BC. Thanks to its popularity, we have seen new tourism businesses and residential developments invigorating our community and providing longer term stability and economic vitality.”