Educational opportunities abound in the West Coast’s natural playground but, with crowded Facebook feeds and cluttered bulletin boards, they can be hard to spot.
The West Coast’s eight communities each offer unique learning experiences and the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust is building a map to help locals and visitors find them.
Through its recently launched www.westcoastnest.org the CBT has cast a broad and alluring net to capture inquisitive minds.
Standing for nature, education. sustainability and transformation, the CBT’s West Coast N.E.S.T. initiative is a regional collaboration between local organizations, cultures, and communities, according to CBT executive director Rebecca Hurwitz.
“Together we have more to offer,” she said.
The website is in soft-launch mode so that locals can check it out and make sure all opportunities are accounted for before it’s marketed to out-of-towners.
“We know there’s a lot going on and we haven’t captured it all in the website yet,” Hurwitz said.
“I hope people will check out the website and identify programs that we need to add and also programs that they want to participate in.”
She added both Tourism Tofino and Tourism Ucluelet are ready unleash their marketing powers once the site is deemed ready for prime time.
“We’re going to go full-speed ahead with the local destination marketing organizations,” she said.
“Those DMO’s are going to help us to market the education opportunities outside of the region. So, we’re really working with the folks who have the skills and experience to make this a success.”
Hurwitz has been delighted to see the West Coast’s eight communities come together to invest in educational tourism and said the program’s value stemmed from its regionally collaborative approach. She is confident the finished product will bring a valuable boost to both the West Coast’s tourism economy and local capacity.
“We want to spark a desire to travel to the West Coast for purposeful learning with visitors and, at the same time, we want to have a one stop shop so that locals who are interested in learning more, and participating in courses, know where to find information,” she said.
“We know that tourism is the main driver in some of our communities and we have an opportunity to attract visitors who meet our vision and values for our region. We have an amazing natural environment and there are opportunities to research, study and explore what education really means through one-on-one experiences in this setting.”
She added attracting tourists to local programs will help those programs grow.
“We know that lots of organizations and businesses are already offering education programs, but many of them are not as fully subscribed as they could be and we would like to increase the viability of the programs and, in turn, see more programs being offered,” she said.
“We hope this will be a positive reinforcement circle.”
The website, along with 12 months of completed CBT programming, was paid for with $70,000 from the Pacific Salmon Treaty fund and $30,000 from the Island Coastal Economic Trust.
The CBT has also put in an application to the BC Rural Dividend Fund to hire an education coordinator who will support the marketing and maintenance of www.westcoastnest.org while working with local organizations to expand and enhance the Coast’s educational programming.