The Village of Canal Flats recently discussed the possibility of opening their own visitor’s centre at the town council meeting held on Monday August 22nd.
The idea stems from conversations that have occurred between Kate McLean (new management of the Flats RV and Campground located just off Highway 95) and visitors in the area about what exactly Canal Flats has to offer to tourists. According to an email sent by the RV Park to Council as read by councillor Karl Sterzer at the meeting, it has become a running joke whereby people think Canal Flats consists only of the known locations along the highway like the mill and RV Park.
This sparked the idea for the RV Park to find a way to deliver more information to people about what Canal Flats can potentially offer to prospective tourists, and they emailed council in hopes of discussing the idea of creating a small visitor centre where they could post information about activities in the Village.
At council, it was discussed how the Village is already represented by the Columbia Valley Visitor’s Services, which is a service they contribute to through the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK), said mayor Ute Juras. The valley’s official visitor’s centres — located in Fairmont, Invermere and Radium —hand out information such as the Columbia Valley Map Book along with dining guides and other publications that inform tourists how to travel throughout the valley.
Despite this, said Juras, there may be better ways of promoting more information that specifically is geared towards showcasing Canal Flats than the current system.
“One of our councillors inquired at the Fairmont visitor booth about Canal Flats and found out that the individual staff person did not even know we had a beach,” Juras told The Echo in an email. “We have since provided the Chamber with a fact sheet. We (the Columbia Valley Directors) have always maintained that Radium is the north portal and Canal Flats is the south portal for visitors. It would be only logical that we promote the Valley from both ends.”
Kent Kebe, manager of the valley-wide visitor’s services, said that although the chain of centres is responsible in some regards to acquire information about the service area and the communities within those boundaries, the communities themselves have the responsibility to provide information to ensure that the information given out is complete and accurate.
“To be honest, when Mayor Juras first went to the Fairmont Visitor Centre Kiosk, it was very early in the development of the new Valley Visitor Services Network and very little information had been provided by the new communities in the network area, in particular Canal Flats,” he said. “Receiving the Community Fact Sheet prior to the start of the tourist season would have been more productive. In hindsight, a meeting with Canal Flats to gather that information could have beneficial — it has been a steep learning curve.”
Juras said that Canal Flats village staff will be looking into signage and finding support from the Columbia Valley Visitors Services as a way to increase the community’s outreach.
“We need to all work together to make this new venture successful,” Kebe said. “As time progresses and a good line of communication is opened up, the Valley Visitor Services Network will be able to serve all the communities in the network area.”