A bronze cougar guards the entrance to town hall, and more statues are on their way. Photo Andrea DeMeer

Princeton sees increase in tourism, despite devastating flood

Municipality credits bronze statues as a draw, and more are on the way

The power of the flood that devastated Princeton in November 2021 had no impact on tourism, according to town economic development coordinator Gary Schatz.

Statistics from the Visitors Centre on Bridge Street indicate that the numbers of people stopping in Princeton between December 2021 and February 2022 were the highest since 2016.

For example, last month, staff at the centre greeted 507 parties comprised of 649 visitors, which is the largest amount of traffic for February in the last seven years.

Over all, during the recorded period, numbers and comparisons have fluctuated for a variety of reasons, Schatz told the Spotlight, with COVID-19 playing a large role in the past two years.

Other challenges have included wildfires, weather incidents, air quality and closed highways.

A municipal report states that in 2016 there were 19,318 visitors to the town. In 2021, during the COVID lock-down, there were 12,183 guests.

“We’ve had everything thrown against us,” said Schatz. “What’s next is $2 a litre gas. We’ve got a pandemic. We’ve had smoke. We’ve had extreme heat. We had a flood. You name it, we’ve had it, and people are still coming in. The renovations of the Visitors Centre, the signage and gateways, they are working and drawing in people.”

Schatz also credits much of the interest in Princeton to the bronze statue park, and Princeton’s designation as the Bronze Statue Capital of Canada. He said the statues are the number one reason people give at the centre, for coming to town.

“I think it shows that if we work at it that Princeton can be more than a pit stop. We can be a destination. With a little effort, Princeton can become way more of a tourist destination than we thought we could be.”

In 2019, the municipality initiated a make over of the town’s core, which included the installation of 15 large bronze wildlife statues. The initial cost of the total project was $315,000, and other sculptures have been added since then.

At a recent meeting council voted to apply $30,000 of provincial grant money to complete the purchase of six more statues, five small bear cubs and a large mountain goat. The mountain goat will be positioned on the Miners’ Climb.

Schatz said he believes it’s important to continue adding to the town’s statue reputation. “That would be my recommendation moving forward. We should add a piece every year, at least, if you want to keep it new and relevant and keep the interest.”

Related: Princeton officially becomes ‘Bronze Statue Capital of Canada’

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

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