As of January 2018, the visitor centre near Merritt will close forever.
While the centre just off Exit 286 on Highway 97 is considered a busy rest area, it is primarily used as a washroom stop for travellers rather than travel planning information source.
Instead the B.C. Government is building a new modern rest area built on the Okanagan Connector between Merritt and Kelowna. The rest area is almost finished construction at the Loon Lake Interchange on Highway 97C. It is considered a modern building with running water, flush toilets and ample room for commercial trucks to park.
According to British Columbia Visitor Centre at Merritt (BCVCMerritt) the idea of building a new rest area and shutting the old one is a strategic decision to transition visitor services in Merritt to a community-led model, similar to those that currently exist in 111 communities across the province.
“In fact, we have already successfully transitioned four other Destination BC-operated locations since 2015. Under this model, the local community provides visitor services and is part of Destination BC’s Visitor Services Network Program,” stats a release.
The BCVCMerritt claims it is working with the City of Merritt on plans to enhance the visitor services program and that it is not ending visitor services in Merritt just relocating them.
The new rest area near the Loon Lake exit is part of a $9 million investment to upgrade existing rest areas around the province.