Up against the wall: The Friends seek a way out of their financial trap

This is the final installment of a three-part series focusing on the potential disintegration of a major community group — the Friends of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier.

The Friends of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier logo
The Friends of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier logo

By David F. Rooney

Frustrated and deeply worried by the financial peril facing the Friends of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier, the group is trying to think outside the box as it gropes for a way to avoid the abyss before it.

Talk with FMRG President Glen O’Reilly about the situation and you can hear the frustration in his voice.

“We’ve still grown (despite the problems the group faces),” he said in an interview. “That’s my frustration. I thought we’d be in a better place than we are now.”

A quick look at the FMRG’s annual report for 2008-2009 shows a marked decline in revenue to $205,878 last year from $226,970 in 2008 and that year’s revenue was down from 2007 when it was $242,429. Merchandise sales generated have always generated the bulk of the group’s income. Last year, sales at the Glacier Circle brought in $179,08, down from $209,133 in 2008. Sales in 2007 brought in $201,767.

The flip side of the ledger was grim reading last year when the FMRG posted a deficit of $66,649. There was no red ink in 2008. Then it had a surplus of $9,242. But 2007 was another tough year with a $13,545 deficit.

All of that means that if the Friends can’t open their store at Rogers Pass this year they could well be history.

O’Reilly said the FMRG board is looking for new directions and new ideas it can use to not just preserve the group intact but help it grow in the future.

“I think over the next three years part of our vision will be to have more of a presence in the community than we already have,” he said.

That means chipping away at the public perception that the Friends are a wholly owned subsidiary of Parks Canada — something they most definitely are not. The other perception, that they are just a local hiking club, while perhaps kinder in a way, is also just as false.

“We’re no longer just a hiking club,” says FMRG Executive Director Neills Kristensen. “We do a lot more than just hold guided hikes. And more and more people are just going out on their own. They don;t need us for that. That kind of shift has been a big change for other outdoor groups from the Alpine Club of Canada to other Friends organizations.”

Some of the solutions are already in the works. The Friends are producing DVDs for Parks Canada and for the Torch Relay and they’d like to be

FMRG staff like Neills Kristensen, Jackie O’Ryan and Andrew Hamilton have all had to sacrifices. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier
FMRG staff like Neills Kristensen, Jackie O’Ryan and Andrew Hamilton have all had to sacrifices. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier

able to eventually open three retail outlets: one at the Rogers Pass Centre when it is fully renovated, one at Mount Revelstoke by Balsam Lake, which they plan to open this spring on a limited basis, and one in downtown Revelstoke. Healthy retail sales are key to the group’s survival and growth. They’d also like to be able to sell more locally produced items in the form of hand-crafted items to ceramics and art work. They will continue to produce and sell books and other printed materials and — who knows? — if their venture into DVD production works out they could well make money off of those, too.

The Friends also want new members from among the so-called “new demographic” that is moving into town. O’Reilly and Kristensen said the board recognizes that many of the people who founded the Friends are aging and the group needs new blood from the young or young-ish couples, often with kids, who are taking up residence here.

“If we can get through the winter and this temporary hiccup then things will work out,”O’Reilly said. “I’m convinced of that.”

That may well be but the group has to get through it first. It is doing all the right things. Kristensen has cut back on the hours he works — something that costs him about $500 every pay cheque, which is adding up to a significant personal financial strain — and the Friends’ office in the Parks Canada building is now open only seven hours a day Monday through Thursday and is closed on Fridays. That’s helping on the financial front but it’s not sustainable over the long term.

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kristensen said. “But it’s still very difficult when you understand that you’re still in the tunnel.”

You can read the first instalment here: https://legacy.revelstokecurrent.com//2009/12/21/up-against-the-wall-after-22-years-the-friends-of-mount-revelstoke-and-glacier-could-be-history/

You can read the second instalment here: https://legacy.revelstokecurrent.com//2009/12/27/up-against-the-wall-judging-by-their-record-the-friends-are-irreplaceable/