Vancouver Island Visitor Centre Open for Business
The centre, located on the Comox Valley Parkway just off the exit from Highway 19, held its official opening with a community gathering and gala on April 28.
The Visitor Centre brings together two different Tourism Information Centres that were located in Cumberland and Courtenay into a central location. 'It's an absolutely amazing building,' Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird said during the grand opening.
Inside the circular, red cedar-walled exhibit hall, displays give visitors a hands-on feel for the activities available in the Comox Valley. "When you go through the building it achieves its mission in providing a warm space for the Visitors' Centre," project manager Blair Pettis said. There is a detachable quad chair from the Eagle Chairlift at Mount Washington Alpine Resort, where visitors can sit and have their photo taken against a backdrop of an alpine scene. 'It's definitely a great photo opp for visitors coming into our region,' says Resort Director of Public Relations Brent Curtain.
'It's probably one of the first times we've had a chair placed in an exhibit like that off-mountain. We thought it was a great idea and were happy to help them put it together.'
There is also a 'marmot den', where kids can climb into the den and pop their head through a 'marmot hole' for a cute photo. Other displays include a mountain bike on a boardwalk complete with real trees, a kayak, a killer whale spyhopping through acrylic water, and a trivia area where people can lift displays of seafood to reveal fun facts. An interactive digital map takes up the centre of the room.
Another iconic symbol, a red and white Tutor jet traditionally flown by the Canadian Snowbirds air demonstration squadron, has been mounted on a steel pedestal outside the visitor centre. The jet, on loan from Canadian Forces Base Comox, heralds the presence of the Air Force base in the Comox Valley.
There is a gift shop, conference room, several racks full of tourism information for the Comox Valley, Vancouver Island and beyond and a large, welcoming information desk. Visitor Centre manager Kelly Barnie, supervisor Karen Wright and their staff are able to put together an entire trip itinerary and book events and accommodation for visitors right at the centre.
Tom Grant, a member of the Comox Valley Economic Development Commission who is also a councillor with the Town of Comox, says the seaside town - the farthest Comox Valley community from the highway - is not the forgotten cousin when it comes to the visitors' centre. 'It's something that's kind of been missing,' he said. The Comox Business in Action group is developing a strategy to use the visitors' centre to promote Comox effectively, rather than being left out.
"You'll notice we're quite well represented in the racks," he said.
Did You Know...
The Vancouver Island Visitor Centre captured the Judge's Choice Award for best overall entry as well as the Excellence Award for the Institutional category at the fifth annual Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards in Parksville, April 12.