Is the CLEC a tax burden or an economic generator?
Lake Cowichan town councillors were given plenty to think about when Dalton Smith, manager of the Cowichan Lake Education Centre, presented two discussion papers/reports to them at the mid-October parks meeting.
Council has been preparing for a strategy and pre-budget meeting and expect this report to form part of those talks.
Smith said, “As with most tourist facilities on Vancouver Island (with the exception of ski mountains) our busiest season is May through September with a shoulder season that has limited rentals in October and through mid-December and then more challenging rental periods from late December through late February.
“The fact that the Centre is rustic in nature and provides for shared sleeping arrangements for our guests does present challenges. However, our target audience is groups and organizations that reflect a need for moderate needs and a desire to work with modest budgets and wishing to enjoy the privacy and natural setting of a lakefront property on acreage and situated away from urban distractions.
“With the exception of wedding weekends, most of our groups are not for profit organizations and it has been with purpose that we do not compete with private enterprise operations that accommodate small groups and families in motels and bed and breakfast operations. In fact, for economic and business reasons we will not entertain groups of fewer than 20 guests.
“Because we are a full service facility with a union workforce we do not allow for groups that wish to bring in or cook their own meals.”
This is not to say they have been approached often by groups wanting to bring their own food, he said.
“Approximately 90 per cent of our anticipated bookings have indeed followed through with their bookings to date and all of the rentals have been multi-day or week-long rentals. The intensity of planning for and providing for group needs for multi-day rentals requires a team approach to ensure that the needs of guests are met on a daily basis.”
He took six of CLEC’s busiest weeks during the summer to show “some impressive statistics”.
Smith went on to explain, “350 youth and additional professional staff were served three meals per day for six weeks and nutrition breaks on a daily basis, for an average of 210 meals each day, 1,000 meals in a week…All of our cooking staff have local roots and in most cases have a couple of jobs but are committed to working at the centre. All of that food means a lot of work for housekeepers as well and the cleaning required to make sure our guests are comfortable.
“Maintenance is also required and is done as needed by centre workers, or contractors are used when specific trade qualifications are mandated to meet provincial codes.”
So, who uses the centre?
Spiritual groups, leadership groups, First Nations youth and adult groups, Camp Yes summer youth groups, educational groups from such sources as UVic, VIU, St. Margaret’s and Queen Margaret’s schools, and some public schools, a citizens’ counselling group from Victoria, weddings, and the group called Becoming an Outdoors Woman, he explained.
Two final noteworthy items for discussion are that the CLEC purchases many food and maintenance supplies locally in Lake Cowichan, and has patronized the grocery store, furniture store, hardware and building supplies businesses as well as local gas stations, and that the centre and the park contribute about $30,000 to the town’s operation revenues.
He also went on to talk about the site’s history and some of the work that has been done at the facility over the years.