Future of tourism infrastructure program uncertain after 2017

Resort Municipality Infrastructure Program, which has provided $3.5 million in funding to Revelstoke, may end in 2017.

The Frisby Ridge trail

Mountain bike trails and dirt bike trails. Snowmobile cabins and museum renovations. The Visitor Information Centre and the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre.

Those are all projects that have been made possible in part thanks to the province’s Resort Municipality Infrastructure Program.

Now, the group that makes funding recommendations is planning for the program’s possible end in 2017.

“They’re saying that at the moment they’ve been told the program’s extended to 2017 and that’s as much as they know,” said Alan Mason, the City of Revelstoke’s Director of Economic Development.

The ‘they’ he’s referring to are the administrators of the $10.5-million program in the province’s Ministry of Tourism. They want to see plans for the funding, and they get final say on what projects are approved.

After asking Revelstoke for a five year plan, they’ve now asked for a new plan that goes until 2017, after which the future of the program is up in the air. A ministry spokesperson said the program will be assessed as it looks at extending the program beyond then.

With time possibly running out, the Revelstoke Tourism Infrastructure Committee met recently to discuss what to put funding towards over the next 2.5 years. They were presented with a list of 14 possible projects totalling $2.845 million. With the city scheduled to received $1,382,717, they had to do some paring down.

The list included things like funding for the new skateboard and splash parks, as well as improvements to Williamson Lake and the golf course. There was money included for more mountain bike and dirt bike trails, as well as an urban trail system that would connect Revelstoke Mountain Resort to downtown. That last one has been a priority for years, said Mason.

The list includes purchasing a new ski resort shuttle in 2016, and $175,000 to put towards special events.

“It’s not hard to come up with all these ideas,” said Mason. “We’ve been fortunate we’ve had really good clubs to do the work. These guys are fantastic and we’re lucky to have them.”

The biggest ticket item was a trail and bridge over the Box Canyon. At $750,000, it was deemed too expensive and was cut from the list, said Mason.

“(The committee) has come up with a list of projects they’d like to see,” said Mason. “I am going to try and prioritize some of the ones we can do right away.”

Mason’s job is to prepare a project list for the province to approve. When specific applications come in from different community groups, they go to the tourism committee for discussion. The committee then sends its recommendations to council, who usually rubber-stamp their approval. However, the provincial government gets the final say.

While projects are expected to adhere to the plan in place, there is flexibility built in. Mason pointed to the dirt bike trail network, which wasn’t envisioned five years ago, but has exploded recently.

“If it’s a new project that isn’t in the plan, the province wants to see it first before it goes to council,” said Mason.

Revelstoke was made part of the Resort Municipality Infrastructure Program in 2008 when it was deemed a resort community because of the number of hotel beds in town. The fact the program came about at the same time Revelstoke Mountain Resort started up was fortuitous timing, said Mason.

In 2009, the first full year of funding, Revelstoke received almost $300,000 through the program. By 2013, that funding had increased to more than $500,000 thanks to increased hotel stays in Revelstoke. In total, the community has received about $3.5 million since the program began.

The money has helped fund major projects such as the new visitor centre, the new snowmobile cabins on Boulder Mountain and Frisby Ridge, the Mount Macpherson Nordic Lodge, museum renovations, public art and dozens of kilometres of trails.

“It’s been great for us. We would have never been able to build all that stuff without it,” said Mason.

 

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