The Similkameen Valley Planning Society held its first meeting of 2013 on January 9 at Cawston Hall.
Both Similkameen Indian bands were absent from the meeting.
The SVPS’ Similkameen Valley Water Study’s Request For Proposals expired on January 7, with three organizations tendering proposals. The three are:
– Summit Environmental Consultants
– Sage Transitions
– Lower Similkameen Indian Band
A decision regarding the winning proposal will be made at the January 24 regional district board meeting.
There is a certain amount of urgency to move the study forward. Under the terms of grant funding for the study last year is a requirement to complete the work in a year and a half.
Grist Mill update
Dave Cursons, Vice President of the Grist Mill Foundation spoke on behalf of the Grist Mill Heritage Club, telling the SVPS that BC Heritage had received four expressions of interest regarding potential future operators of the mill. One submission was disqualified, and one applicant is a local resident.
Cursons told the group that BC Heritage was currently in a “state of reorganization,” expressing fears over possible delays in “process” that might interfere with his group getting tourist information with regard to the mill out to the public in time for the 2013 season.
Tourism Advisory Council (TAC) Update
Joan McMurray reported that the Canadian Tourism Commission was interested in the Similkameen tourism initiative, and had taken it on as a pilot project.
“We have gone from being so far behind the process to being on the leading edge,” McMurray told the society. “All of a sudden we have an industry in the valley that has 170 stakeholders.”
McMurray explained that TAC planned to design and implement the Similkameen’s tourism website prior to creating a print edition ( tourist guide) because of the speed at which the web can introduce the Similkameen to the world.
“If they know how to access it, they can get it, no matter where,” she said.
Society members raised questions regarding website operation, ongoing maintenance, and cost. McMurray replied that after matching funding for the Similkameen Tourism Project runs out in 2014, the website will be paid for by the stakeholders, with remuneration coming from the website. McMurray expected the strategy to work similarly to Penticton’s “model.”
The website will be designed to run for a year without the need for major changes or rebuilds. A coordinator for the website would be ultimately paid for by the stakeholders.
McMurray also noted that writing the Similkameen’s stories would involve the use of the “EQ” technique, or Explorer Quotient, a form of storytelling designed to appeal to certain types of travellers.
McMurray made a request to the SVPS for $23,000 in order to maximize matching funds from the province. Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage asked what plans were in place for future funding, noting that his town was “already well tapped” for tourism, having invested $25,000 into the Princeton Visitor’s Centre.
“How long do you expect to ask for this level of funding?” he askedd.
McMurray replied that in following years, much less would be needed.
“This project is creating the “funnel” that will bring people into the valley,” she said, adding that once the project was past start up and had compiled some statistics, the group could apply for funding based on infrastructure development requirements that would become apparent through statistics analysis. McMurray hoped the project would get to self sustainable levels quickly, noting that in the Penticton model, stakeholders bought in a various levels, in some cases being charged up to $700.
Armitage also indicated he had been subjected to critiscism over the additional $1,000 spent by TAC for additional photographs, noting that there were many talented photographers locally. McMurray replied that local talent would be used wherever possible.
Some discussion also took place regarding the current and future publication of a valley wide tourist guide. TAC was unable to release a version of their own this year, and are working with the valley’s two weekly newspapers – the Princeton Spotlight and the Keremeos Review – both of which are part of the Black Press chain. The two newspapers have been the traditional publishers of upper and lower Similkameen guides for years, but will combine their efforts this year under the guidance of the tourist strategy, which will be publicly funded for 18 months.
McMurray was unable to state definitively how the guide would be produced in the future, offering the possibility that it could be assembled and printed by Black Press under TAC’s supervision, or produced completely by TAC itself, then tendered for publication.
The society agreed to support TAC’s request through general funding, which will be supported through membership dues.