If you are concerned about the growing influx of summer visitors and it’s impact on our island life you might want to read the correspondence from a Quadra Island resident submitted to the Strathcona Regional District Board Meeting Agenda August 10/16. (see link at end)
The letter is in reponse to the latest press release by the ICET/ Island Coast Economic Trust, and the BCOBTA/ BC Ocean Boating Tourism Association's plans to boost marine tourism marketing in the Discovery Islands, and that includes Cortes Island.
Whether you agree or not the author makes valid points worth further consideration.
I read with interest the recent press release concerning the BC Ocean Boating Tourism Association's plans for marketing the Discovery Islands as a destination with financial assistance from the Island Coastal Economic Trust and wanted to raise a few points and express some concerns about this plan.
First I think it's important to agree that tourism is a significant economic driver on Quadra Island and the Discovery Islands, likely, when all ancillary spending is considered, the largest single contributor. The local communities on Quadra and Cortes islands have been well aware of this for some time and have been active in researching, planning and marketing to optimize the benefits. Quadra Island Tourism (a sub-committee of the Discovery Islands Chamber of Commerce) in collaboration with myself as local publisher producing a variety of destination marketing media, have been working for over a decade to brand and position Quadra Island, and by extension the Discovery Islands, as a tourist destination. We work within the guidelines of the Quadra Island Tourism Plan:
This plan was arrived at after a period of extensive community consultation and analysis.
And that highlights the main concern I have with the BC Ocean Boating Tourism Association's plan. As far as I am aware there has been no meaningful discussion between BCOBTA and the local community. This raises all sorts of questions about the welcome their efforts may have locally and the desire, let alone ability of the islands to handle the additional visitations. I would like to know what research has been done to measure and mitigate against the effects of encouraging more people into a small rural community and relatively unspoilt natural area?
This summer season on Quadra Island is already looking like one of the busiest yet. There are lengthy delays at the ferry, a worrying visible increase in impacts on our parks,trails and roads. We have safety issues on some roadways, human and canine waste is piling up alongside parking lots and trails because we don't have adequate toilet facilities and so on. Marine impacts while less visible can only be assumed to be comparable.
The Quadra Island community has already identified that it does not wish to see significant changes to the island's nature and this is reflected in the Tourism Plan. The plan clearly outlines a goal of enhancing shoulder-season visits so that we can increase the number of visitors, and resulting economic benefit, while remaining within our current carrying capacity. Is the BCOBTA aware of this and how will their marketing efforts compliment that goal?
The BCOBTA are not alone in proposing to pitch the Discovery Islands as a destination outside of the local plan. There is a separate project by the BC Marine Trails Network Association to promote the idea of a marine trail through the region. Again this proposal has come forward with little to no prior community consultation and yet would bring with it additional burdens and impacts on the region.
I would encourage the Island Coastal Economic Trust to back step a little and encourage the BC Ocean Boating Tourism Association to make contact with the local community to find out whether their idea is welcome in the first place and how it might better fit with the community's overall vision and specifically the Quadra Island and Cortes Island Tourism plans.
Further I would like to hear from the BCOBTA how they will be contributing to the community's ability to cater to the visitors they are planning to send our way. What educational components will be in place to minimize the environmental and social impacts? Have they studied the islands carrying capacity and ability to cater to these additional boaters?
What are their plans to support the much needed upgrades to our infrastructure?
I would venture that if the Island Coastal Economic Trust has funds available for enhancing tourism in the Discovery Islands then money would be better spent on helping bring our infrastructure up to speed to cope with current levels of traffic and to support projects that demonstrate an understanding and goal of working within the community's own vision and plans.
I hope this perspective is useful in advance of any plan execution so that all stakeholders concerned have their needs met appropriately and that the BCOBTA efforts coincide with the local community's desires.
cc: the Mayor of the City of Duncan, - ICET - BC Ocean Boating Tourism Association - Cortes Island Business and Tourism Association - Regional Director SRD - Discovery Islands - - President Discovery Islands Chamber of Commerce - BC Marine Trails Network Association - editor Campbell River Mirror http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/10-Aug-16/20160806-Discovery-Islands-Marine-Tourism.pdf