Help needed for warm Sunfest welcome

While probably not as patriotic as the emotion that characterized the First World War recruiting poster, this

Sunfest welcome program needs you!

While probably not as patriotic as the emotion that characterized the First World War recruiting poster, this letter headline does demonstrate how critical broad community involvement is in order to make Sunfest 2016 a success for Lake Cowichan and surrounding communities.

While there was debate across a wide spectrum of views as to whether Laketown Ranch/Sunfest should be allowed to happen, and the likelihood that it would have positive or negative impacts for the communities surrounding it, we must now all accept the reality that it is about to come to fruition and ensure that benefits do accrue to the region as well as Laketown.

In previous letters to the Gazette and in public forums I made no secret of the fact that I truly believe that this initiative could be the spark that allowed the Cowichan Lake region to embark on defining and implementing a new strategic vision for its economic and social future. The task now is to turn that spark into a perpetual flame that lights the way for those committed to building a long term sustainable future.

James Goldie’s article in the March 30 Gazette identifies clearly that there is already a dedicated core of individuals who are working very hard to ensure that Sunfest 2016 weekend results in significant benefits for Lake Cowichan and surrounding communities. But, much more and many more “hands on” will be needed to bring about a positive outcome.

I was stimulated to write this letter because of my recent observations/listening to views about Sunfest being expressed in the community. “Town council must take care of the parking required”, “The province/CVRD must ensure there are no traffic problems”, “The Chamber of Commerce must get the businesses to organize so they can cope with the increased demand”, “We don’t have enough accommodation for this event”, “It’s up to Laketown to make sure that festival-goers do not overwhelm the communities”, “It will be an absolute disaster, there is nothing you can do to prevent it!”

All of these views are understandable and reflect legitimate perceptions held in our communities.

However, the “someone else will take care of this” mentality, almost bordering on the head in the sand orientation that Lake Cowichan Mayor Forrest suggested was at play in the development proposal phase, will not help shape the better future we all want.

The reality is, all of the agencies mentioned above are engaged in a generally collaborative approach to ensuring that both the Sunfest Festival and corresponding community activity can be carried off successfully.

While minimizing the downside impacts such as traffic, noise, and congestion have not been overlooked, our major emphasis must be on maximizing the benefits.

If we demonstrate to the Sunfest festival attendees and to Laketown that we can deliver a positive and economically productive experience, then we will have established a firm foundation to move forward from.

During the next two to three years, if Laketown can deliver on its hope to bring a number of varied events to the region, and the Cowichan Lake communities can demonstrate that they are truly welcoming while providing visitor services that are appreciated, then a foundation for wide ranging and positive economic and social development will have been established.

Not only will we have a base from ongoing increased tourism levels, the benefits of the Cowichan Lake communities as a retirement or commuting home location will be highlighted, and in contrast to a prevailing view, technologically advanced businesses will not be inhibited by the 30 kilometres from the Trans Canada and may start to view the region as a logical alternative to the excessive costs of doing business on the Lower Mainland and even Victoria.

Lest any of your readers wonder “what has he been smoking”, it should not be a surprise that CBC’s acclaimed series Still Standing will be taping an episode at the end of the month, featuring Lake Cowichan, which will launch their 2017 series.

It is encouraging that others outside our region also see the potential that exists here!

So, what can you do to help? Volunteer. It does not have to be a long-term commitment to a working sub-committee, although you will not be refused! Sporadic hours in the run-up to the Sunfest weekend, or a commitment to give half a day during the weekend, will all be welcome.

Our next Sunfest Welcome Program meeting is at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 7 at the curling lounge, Lake Cowichan Arena.

If you can’t join us then, you can leave your name and contact information with Jenn Pollner at Country Grocer, Lake Cowichan (jpollner@countrygrocer.com)

Together, Cowichan Lake communities can be great, again!

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