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Town public meeting draws numerous local business owners

Majority of local business owners want continued improvement on signage throughout town
Dick Orman from Honeymoon Bay takes the opportunity to express his feelings at the public meeting.

The Town of Lake Cowichan held a public meeting this past Monday night at Centennial Hall with numerous local business owners coming out to express their views to council.

Up for discussion was signage, the new Renfrew Town Square and a theme for the town amongst other things, with Mayor Ross Forrest consistently praising the positivity of the meeting.

“There’s been a lot of changes in the town, now our concern is private properties and the appearance along the main road,” said Forrest to open the meeting. “Your businesses impact our downtown core. Signage is a big thing we’re working on. We want to attract people to Lake Cowichan.

“I received an email recently from the mayor of Prince George and they’ve created a Facebook page up there called ‘Hell Yeah Prince George’ and it’s strictly for positive input about the city. If you say negative things you are deleted from the page. I’d love to see a page where we can help each other out and write positive information about the town. We can’t sell our community with bad use.”

Dr John Wilson from the Lake Dental Health Centre asked if the town has a “grand theme” in the works.

“The town does not have a theme,” said Forrest. “It’s up to the body to decide that theme but it’s a good idea to sell the community.”

Tara Bushby, who is part of the town’s advisory planning commission, confirmed “the APC is doing a lot of work on signs” at the present time.

“We want a signage that’s consistent throughout the town,” said Forrest. “We’ve budgeted money for that this year and for 2015 so we can complete the work. It’s important.

“The new town square will hopefully get more people on foot into the core of our town. It’s a six to eight week project that we hope to complete before the summer. Hopefully people driving the circle route will be stopping and spending more time and money in the town too. We want to improve the local economy.”

Bushby confirmed “the APC is working on signage for the downtown area as well as Saywell Park. The first time I came through town there was no signage and we have this beautiful water here. We’re working on signage that will pull tourists in and make them stay.”

Bob Culmer, who owns the Galloping Moon Gallery with wife Jane, asked if the town could implement a liaison to the Ministry of Transportation.

“There are some people who still have no idea the road to Port Renfrew is paved and they still think it’s a logging road. It’s been paved for four years,” said Culmer. “There should be a sign that says Highway 18 is an alternate route to the Malahat and people can get home through Sooke down Island. That would bring people to town.”

Forrest responded.

“Most people have the internet these days,” he said. “If you Google the circle route it will tell you that it is paved. We are working on our signage as we do want to advertise. We recognize the importance of Saywell Park and it attracting people to the town. We’ve got a beautiful lake, rivers and mountains and they’re all under utilized. We did really want a beach at Saywell Park but there’s a very sensitive fish habitat there and it was impossible.

“Our next option was a walkway and a wharf so the town decided to purchase a water lot off of TimberWest and we’re the only one in the area that has done that. We’ll continue to work to make it look nicer but it is a flood area so there is only so much you can do so that it doesn’t wash away every winter. We have a big, beautiful wharf now that’s 90 feet long, 14 feet wide. Last year’s secondary school grad class donated $5,000 towards it. We are so thankful for that, they bought into it, and we’re proud of what we’ve done there.”

Sandy Stinson who owns the RE/MAX realty branch in Lake Cowichan asked if the town could build a graveyard so people can bury their family members here.

“We don’t have a cemetery and they are very expensive. We could look at a site where people can place their family members’ ashes, rather than a burial,” said the mayor.

Katherine Worsley from the Cowichan Lake and District Chamber of Commerce stated that the chamber had produced a detailed map for the area, with the public constantly asking for better access to the water.

“We constantly talk to individuals about lake access,” she said. “We’ve created a map and pointed out the public access points. Local shopping is what we need to stay focused on but we must be open to drawing new business too.”

Councillor Bob Day agreed.

“How about we look after the Lake Cowichan customers. Costco would’t fly and it would put people out of business. But we need to expand the town and that’s how Tim Hortons had a look. That created jobs. The average income in the Cowichan Valley is $24,900 and that’s what developers should be looking at,” said Day, who also praised the work of the Choose Cowichan Lake Committee that has produced a recent influx of medical personnel to the town, which is still ongoing.

Day is on that committee alongside Forrest who said “the downtown revitalization is just part of our grand improvement of Lake Cowichan. We want to attract investors and someone with big pockets that will want to build an apartment building. Then we’ll improve.

“The forest industry isn’t what it once was. What we can attract is people who want to come and live in our community. I grew up here and 2,000 people used to work in the mills on the lake alone. That’s not there anymore, so we need to sell this place as a good place to live. The natural assets that we have, we need to build on that. I’m thrilled at the positivity of tonight’s meeting. We needed the input to enhance our community,” said the mayor.