So what does economic development mean to Lake Cowichan?
For some it’s as simple as looking at bringing in a food truck for next summer’s anticipated spike in visitors. For others, it’s developing a town-wide festival to take advantage of the overflow from Sunfest. And for still others, it’s a long-term plan that sees development of the entire Cowichan Lake area as a tourist hotspot.
Glenda Osborne Burg is one of the latter, giving the example of the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth — located in the Washington State drybelt south of B.C.’s Okanagan country — as one to follow.
She said that the beauty of the area would draw outdoors enthusiasts from as far away as Germany and Austria, but what was needed first was a careful assessment of what could be on offer.
“I see this in five to seven years as a tourist destination. But we need to form an executive. We need to establish partnerships,” she said. “We need to have infrastructure and co-operation from all areas.”
Others, such as Lake Town Ranch’s Mark Mitchell, suggested Whistler or Tofino or Elkford as examples for Lake Cowichan to follow.
Lake Cowichan Coun. Carolyne Austin said an economic development incentive some time back had produced a branding logo for the area, based on a hiker.
It has not been used much, however, and most of those attending the meeting had not heard of it.
Community Futures’ Cathy Robertson suggested making use of the regional district’s “Cowichan” logo but that idea didn’t draw forth much response, either.
Other commenters told the members of the group that if they were looking at festivals of one kind or another they needed to remember that people who come to those are looking for chances to party, not to see wildlife.
Coun. Bob Day was more prosaic than most, and talked briefly of looking at finding ways an energetic group could put extra wind in the sails of such existing festivals as Cowichan Lake Days and Heritage Days while perhaps developing a companion festival to offer daytime activities in Lake Cowichan itself during Sunfest.
Area resident Sherry Sohye said she thought the town itself would have to seriously look at how it would address the arrival of new enterprises and infrastructure that was sure to arrive when Sunfest does.
Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest agreed with her, but said he saw the first, best step as one of consultation. “We need to talk about this. For example, food trucks. Is it to the benefit of our area restaurants to have food trucks here?”
He suggested that a section of quiet road near the Fields store might be great location for half a dozen trucks, particularly if there was festival going on at various locations throughout the town, generating a lot of foot traffic.
“But, the public has to say what it wants to do,” he said. “And, you all need to be ambassadors for this going forward. This is more than just success for a business. We all have a stake in it. We all have something positive to gain with this positive message.”