Lida Carey addressed this the letter to Mayor Mark McKee and members of Council as well as sending The Current a copy. We have chosen to publish her comments in full.
To the Editor:
Firstly, let me say that I don’t envy you in your position of responsibility right now. I think that no matter what you decide, there are people that will not be happy. I think the polarization of views is a microcosm of what is going on in the world right now. It seems like people have forgotten how to get along with each other. Hopefully, you will find your way to the best decision for the majority of people–both consumers and business owners–in our great little town!
I would like to throw in my two cents worth. I have grave misgivings about the whole highway project. I am in no way opposed to more competition. I am not against progress. I am not a business owner. I am not against cheaper groceries and more selection. I urge you to proceed slowly and with caution, despite your promises to open Revelstoke for business. There are times that caution be damned. Decisions that don’t have long-term impacts. Like the ridiculous decision to paint logos on every street corner. They’ve worn off. No harm. No foul. I don’t think this decision is one of those times.
My concerns are born out of 15 years of experience with visitors to our town, first as the Plaza Coordinator for many years, and then as a Visitor Information Counsellor for even longer. From the reasons for the changes, as found on the city website “…travellers… are often not stopping in Revelstoke due to the inefficient access to amenities or because of the limited highway retail… offered.” I think this is only part of the picture. While it’s true that many travellers won’t stop for these reasons, I fear that if the mall is put in, many may only stop at the highway and completely miss our fabulous town. When the Visitor Information Kiosk was put in Woodenhead Park, we tried our best to get people to visit downtown. Very, very limited success. It was so limited in fact, that the next year, the decision was made to not re-open the kiosk because visitor turnover was so poor! I believe this was also a deciding factor when determining the location of the new Visitor Center.
I can not begin to tell you how many times I’ve talked with individuals who say they had to come into town and discovered Revelstoke. They came in for gas, or food, or coffee, or services… and have come back over and over and over again. They come downtown for essentials and find the extras, like the music in the plaza and smaller speciality shops and great local treats of all varieties! These tourists end up staying longer than to just grab groceries or gas. Many say they planned their vacation in Banff, but its charm quickly wears off. Whether the current vacation plans are changed or whether it’s next years vacation, people that come into the downtown often return after experiencing what we offer. Can I re-state that? They need to experience our charm. Please don’t make the assumption that signs in the mall parking lot will bring people into town. A sign is not the same as an experience!! One of the letters on the site is from a family that moved here because of such an experience.
Please don’t underestimate the importance of tourists to our downtown economy. Our town relies on tourists! It’s great to say that the downtown will continue the way it is, but can you be so certain that you ignore the research completely? The charm will be lost if the buildings are closed. My experience at the Visitor Centre says that if we provide too many services at the highway, they won’t come into town, and then they won’t come back again and again for the charm.
I am no expert, so I don’t presume to know the right decision, but I do caution you to not rush into anything that will potentially undermine what makes Revelstoke so wonderful. If, after prudently considering the options, amending the changes seems to be the best choice, then do it. But please, prudently consider.