Perhaps the City of Vernon’s tourism department requires a history lesson.
On Monday, the tourism advisory committee recommended that hotel room tax revenue not go towards beautifying the Kalamalka Lake lookout because it’s located outside of city limits (it’s in a small sliver of Area B next to Coldstream).
“There’s a concern about the jurisdiction,” Michelle Jefferson tourism manager, told council.
Ultimately council agreed not to provide funds, but to base the decision on boundaries is out of step with past practice.
In 2009, the city forked out $230,500 for landscaping the Highway 97 corridor along Swan Lake. It was deemed necessary because weeds and dead trees had taken hold after the provincial government abandoned the route.
“We have received so many calls and e-mails that we need to do something,” said Buffy Baumbrough, a councillor at the time.
“It’s the gateway to our north end and people are being welcomed with a mess.”
As part of that process, there was very little concern about city money going into another jurisdiction. The only thing that appeared important was not giving tourists the wrong impression.
“What greets the traffic that comes from the north has been awful for years and years and years,” said then-councillor Shawn Lee.
“It just doesn’t send the right message, the right feeling about our community. We have a wonderful community.”
Anyone who has been to the Kal Lake lookout lately will be dismayed at its condition.
Graffiti covers virtually every inch of concrete, while weeds dominate and there is a proliferation of garbage. It truly takes away from the awe-inspiring view of Kalamalka Lake, Coldstream and the Monashee Mountains in the distance.
Similar to the conversations surrounding the Swan Lake corridor in 2009, there is a concern about the impression the lookout leaves tourists with.
“It’s the south entrance to the city and we want to encourage tourism and first impressions are important,” said Coun. Catherine Lord Monday.
Coun. Patrick Nicol also pointed out that visitors aren’t aware of political boundaries and quite frankly don’t care what jurisdiction they are in. All they will focus on is the mess they see.
“It’s one of the jewels we celebrate,” he said of Kal Lake, which features heavily in much of the city’s tourism promotions.
Plans to improve the lookout have been initiated by the Society for the Protection of Kalamalka Lake, which wants to raise funds for lighting, landscaping and signage.
“The Vernon area is missing an opportunity to draw attention to one of the region’s premier attractions,” said Dave Facey, society director, last year.
Now the primary reason the city’s tourism advisory committee opposed funding lookout upgrades is because the money may have come from hotel tax revenue. Based on that factor alone, the decision is fair as hotel tax is supposed to go towards marketing Vernon as a holiday get-away. That means advertisements, brochures, trade shows and websites — not capital works.
But where the tourism advisory committee dropped the ball was not recommending to city council that another funding source be found to support the upgrades.
Ultimately, such a move would have clearly fit within the mandate of the committee if it is truly interested in giving visitors the best possible experience no matter what jurisdiction they stop in.
—Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star