Although Christmas is still a few days away, town officials have unwrapped one present already — the long-awaited welcome sign at the east entrance to Lake Cowichan.
The new sign — mounted on a stone base and bookended by wood siding — reads “Welcome to the Town of Lake Cowichan” with the slogan “A Vibrant Community[,] A Valued Environment”. It was unveiled last Wednesday with the mayor, town councillors and members of the advisory planning commission in attendance.
“I think it looks fantastic,” said mayor Ross Forrest, commending the APC’s work in designing the sign. “I’m very pleased.”
Forrest also praised the work of Corey Lowe of Lowe Fabrications and Welding Services, which was responsible for constructing the sign. The town’s public works and maintenance staff handled the installation of the iconic black bears on either side, which were part of the last sign.
Preserving those bears and incorporating them into the new structure was a message council received loud and clear from members of the public when plans to demolish it were first announced.
The old sign featured the bears perched atop a large, slanting piece of wood, painted green with the words “The Cowichan Lake Area” in white writing. Beneath that, in a flower bed, was another sign with the word WELCOME surrounded by the names of the four lake communities: Lake Cowichan, Mesachie Lake, Honeymoon Bay and Youbou.
The wooden sign had begun to deteriorate, which is why council decided it needed to be replaced.
“We were happy with the look that we had there before but obviously it wasn’t sustainable, the log was rotten and we could replace it with the same look but once again, it’s not sustainable,” said Forrest. “This here is a longer-lasting [design]. And I think from what I see, from what the design is, it’s a style that’s going to remain for a while.”
Forrest also noted that the black, power-coated aluminum is consistent with wayfinding signage throughout town such as in Saywell Park and outside the library.
APC chairman Ross Fitzgerald said he was pleased with the new sign.
“It turned out just as we had intended. Our intentions have been met and I hope the town appreciates what is there,” he said. “I’m sure we’re going to get some feedback soon. People waited a long time for this.”
Town council first tasked the APC with designing a replacement for the welcome sign in fall 2015. Fitzgerald said the commission had hoped that work on the new sign would be underway last spring but other tasks like budget preparation needed to take precedence.
The new sign cost $60,000, which includes the demolition and removal of the original sign. Fitzgerald said the project ran into some additional costs because the original sign had been painted with lead paint and so the crews needed to follow WorkSafeBC’s regulations for its removal.
ICBC contributed $5,000 to the project.
Fitzgerald said the commission wanted to maintain the theme of sign materials — specifically natural rock and wood — that reflect the natural world surrounding the community.
“We kept what most people asked for — the bears,” he said.
In the spring, a garden will be planted in front of the sign and there will be a light installed to ensure visibility at night.