Where is the Trail and District Visitor Centre?
That’s the question tourists ask when they drive through town, some stopping to look further and others just pushing through to the next community, according to Norm Casler, executive director of the Trail & District Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber, which operates the centre and the Teck Interpretive Centre under one roof, is voicing its need for a new location that is accessible and visible.
“As the operator of the Trail Visitor Centre, it’s quite clear to us that our location is not ideal for tourism traffic,” he said. “The number one comment we hear is that it’s really hard to find and it’s really hard to access, especially for people who are pulling a trailer or they’ve got a 40-foot RV, there is nowhere to park.”
Economic development counts on attracting tourists, according to Casler. That said, Trail had about 4,000 people stop into its visitor centre last year, which is far less than the approximate 12,000 Castlegar saw or 17,000 Nelson tallied. Casler attributes part of this “shocking” statistic to Trail’s location.
“If they (tourists) can’t find a place to pull over with their RV and get the information and realize that there is a lot to offer, they might never come back,” he said.
The chamber has been dreaming of a new location for some time, one that has parking and a sani dump nearby (like the one in the Gulch) or one that is visible from Victoria Street for passersby (like the empty adjacent lots that formally housed gas stations). But the reality always comes down to the lack of a suitable place and, of course, the cost.
“The truth of the matter is we do want to get city council’s attention that this is important,” he added. “There is a lot of talk right now about a new location for the library and museum and sometimes we think well why not make it a museum/ library/visitor centre and Teck Interpretive Centre.”
The committee of representatives from the city, Trail Historical Society and the Trail and District Public Library has been formed to develop a plan to present a concept for the proposed facility to the public and to determine a strategy to raise funds to offset the capital costs, according to Sarah Benson, director of Trail Museum and Archives. This committee meets this Friday to begin the process, which should be followed by notice of upcoming public consultations.
Trail council is currently looking at an estimated construction and operating budget for the proposed integrated facility. The nearly 18,000- square foot, two-floor structure is estimated to cost about $6.3 million, according to a report released prior to the city’s regular council meeting Monday night.