Two District of Clearwater councilors got a pleasant surprise recently. At two separate meetings they found that getting Wells Gray Provincial Park recognized as a Geopark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site was a key element in Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association’s 10-year regional growth strategy.
Councilor Gord Heisterman found out first, when TOTA unveiled its 10-year strategy during an event held in Vernon on Nov. 2. Heisterman was there as District of Clearwater’s representative to Tourism Wells Gray.
Two days later Jon Kreke found out as well, when TOTA included the same information in a presentation made to a Tourism BC conference in Vancouver.
Heisterman and Kreke learned that getting Geopark and World Heritage status for Wells Gray Park was one of three prospective flagship projects in the TOTA strategy. The document noted that a broad level of governmental support would be required to pursue the designation in a timely manner.
It recommended as well that consideration also be given to developing an interpretative facility that would become a key attraction within the North Thompson corridor. Such a facility would play a significant role in capitalizing on current bus tour traffic and European interest in Wells Gray, the strategy-writers felt.
Other prospective flagship projects mentioned were development of an internationally acclaimed culinary center of excellence in the Okanagan, and building a country music hall of fame, possibly in Merritt.
TOTA’s 10-year strategy, titled “Embracing Our Potential,” is the outcome of a two-year program of consultation with tourism agencies representing 90 communities, the Canadian Tourism Commission, Tourism BC, Aboriginal Tourism British Columbia, go2 and the Okanagan Valley Economic Development Society.
“We are known too much as a sun and beaches destination,” said Glenn Mandziuk, chief executive officer.
“We want to create exceptional experiences that will draw visitors here every month of the year.”