Big ideas abound as Lake looks to economic development

“That’s Year One for me: organize a downtown festival in Lake Cowichan, and have an ongoing committee after that,” Day said.

Bob Day

Bob Day

“The million dollar question is, ‘Are we ready?’”

Coun. Bob Day challenged a group attending the Town of Lake Cowichan’s sustainable economic development committee Tuesday, Oct. 20.

After the official committee meeting concluded, Day, who chairs the committee, and the rest of council held a talkfest with some community representatives.

Council wants to kickstart a new future.

“All along we’ve wanted to start inviting the public,” Day said.“This seemed like the perfect time to get that ball rolling.”

The announcement that the huge annual Sunfest country music festival wants to move to a former industrial/forestry site near Meade Creek hit the area like a tornado a couple of months back and since then, enthusiasts of all kinds have been putting forward their opinions.

Day said he was pleased to see 30 people at the meeting.

“I targeted community groups to start with; everybody from Kinsmen and Lions right up to the Chamber of Commerce to every downtown business.”

He had a two-fold goal: to get an economic development committee going with public representation and to chat about ideas around Lake Town Ranch but it didn’t quite turn out that way.

“It turned into more of a ‘Yay, Sunfest is coming meeting’. That was going to be part of the discussion but it ended up taking up most of the meeting. But that’s okay. My goal was not to try to rally troops in a specific direction right off the bat, but just to get introductions going and go around the room and ask everybody about their thoughts about economic development.”

Day said he started with Sunfest’s Greg Adams since he was there.

“I had asked them but I hadn’t expected them to be there. But he was and then the whole topic veered around to Sunfest.

“It did stay on an economic development vein because a lot of people were interested in hearing from Mr. Adams and also from Cathy Robertson from Community Futures Cowichan for ideas on how to best take advantage of the people that are coming this way.”

Ideas abounded.

“Well, to start with, pop-up stores. The old Dollar Store location [on South Shore Road] has been mentioned a few times now. Someone suggested making that a cowboy hat store or something like that,” Day said.

But talk went well beyond what shops might offer.

Another suggestion was “having three stages in town during that week, or weekend anyway, and Mr. Adams said he would possibly help get some young performers to be on those stages for a few hours a day. People got excited about having a festival of our own right downtown during the daytime [of the Sunfest weekend]. Somebody’s already busy starting to organize it on paper, I understand.”

“That’s Year One for me: organize a downtown festival in Lake Cowichan, and have an ongoing committee after that,” Day said.

His vision goes well beyond Sunfest.

“Long-term, there’s an opportunity for a grant that will help us get a study done. A consultant could give us an actual action plan on what we could do in five, 10 or 15 years. Sort of a road map, steps we could take to move forward. It’d be nice to leave behind a guidebook for the next group.”

It’s important to see opportunities and be ready to take action on them, Day said.

“If you got everyone in town together and dumped a big pile of horse manure in the room, some people would be complaining about the smell and others would be saying: ‘Now we can make money selling compost.’ Those are the ones I want, to drown out that negativity.”

Getting the ball rolling is key.

“It’s been identified that we need to have as many festivals as we can throughout the year. Why don’t we have an Octoberfest and things like that? But, we need people and I’m hoping this committee can act as a catalyst for economic development for the town and Areas F and I.”

Day was one of those who re-envisioned the annual Cowichan Lake Days celebration, so he knows there’s work involved.

“There’s got to be something that now moves ahead on these new ideas. We need a team of workers that goes with it or we need to pay people to do the work. We’ve got to get going,” he said.

If you’re interesting in lending a hand or ideas,  the sustainable economic development committee will be meeting the third Tuesday of every month.

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