City defends tourism centre location

Officials came under fire Monday about moving the tourist information centre to 39th Avenue next to Civic Arena.

The City of Vernon is attempting to ease public concerns over the relocation of visitor services.

Officials came under fire Monday when about 30 people protested closure of the existing tourist information centres and moving it to a city-owned building on 39th Avenue next to Civic Arena.

“We have looked into all aspects of this and factored in everything,” said Michelle Jefferson, tourism manager.

Jefferson says that a centrally located centre leads to people staying longer in a community and spending money.

“Decreasing visitor numbers and centralization will permit visitor services to reallocate resources towards greater online marketing activities, engagement and promotion of our local tourist attractions and amenities.”

According to the city, the building on 39th Avenue was selected as an information centre because it is near restaurants, hotels and shops and the long-term goal for that area is a park.

“We’re really looking forward to centralizing and encouraging people to come into the city centre,” said Jefferson.

Among the concerns raised by residents Monday was the ability of vehicles to get off Highway 97 and on to 39th Avenue.

But Jefferson says there is a dedicated left-turn lane and the right-hand lane is wide enough for vehicles to make the corner.

“The engineers are not foreseeing an issue and neither is the Ministry of Transportation at this time,” she said.

“And we will keep an eye on things to make sure there are no issues.”

Jefferson says the majority of vehicles stopping at Vernon visitor centre are cars, campers, vans and RVs under 25 feet in length.

“Buses and other large vehicls make that (highway) turn to access Civic Arena and the sani-dump now.”

Jefferson also points out that there are access concerns with the existing tourism booths.

“For people turning left into Watson House (south booth), it’s kind of scary with the highway traffic and at the north booth, high speeds can be challenging while merging,” she said.

As for parking at the 39th Avenue centre, Jefferson says there will be two RV spots, two accessible spots and seven standard parking spaces for visitors and staff.

“RVs will be able to pull directly through the existing north lane adjacent the Civic Arena.”