Visitor centre in Comox Valley reaches 10,000

The Vancouver Island Visitor Centre hit the 10,000 mark last week, along with another 3,000-plus visitors from schools and other groups.

Following a soft opening in January, the facility officially opened in April at the highway interchange within Cumberland's borders.

Supporting the construction, opening and marketing of the centre has been a major focus of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society.

Executive director John Watson provided council with an overview of services Monday. Business retention and enhancement comprises half of CVEDS' primary focus areas. The other half includes investment attraction/promotion and economic development.

Responding to a question from Coun. Kate Greening, Watson said there is a range of options to market small businesses at the visitor centre, including online options.

"We don't want to leave a business thinking they're not being listened to," Watson said, noting CVEDS is catching up now that the visitor centre has finally opened. "We're trying to reach as many groups as we can."

Greening — who suggested a coal cart would be an appropriate addition to the visitor centre — also asked what CVEDS is doing about industrial land. Watson said the society would like to determine how to develop the land. He thinks now is the time to explore, noting interest from Asia.

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Council voted 3-2 in favour of a motion from Coun. Gwyn Sproule to have staff negotiate with the Comox Valley Children's Daycare Society — which has asked council to allow its lease agreement to continue — and to find a way to cover costs before reporting back.

The daycare has been operating out of the same building that houses Village staff and the fire department. Sproule, concerned about running at a loss, prefers the group finds another building.

Couns. Conner Copeman and Kate Greening opposed the motion. Copeman thinks council is sending a conflicting message by saying it will work with the society but not allow it to continue operating from its current locale.

Greening's motion to not proceed further with the lease but to help the group find another site was defeated. Sproule prefers to negotiate as the school year comes to a close.

Mayor Leslie Baird, citing space and monetary concerns, feels the society should move to another location. Baird takes exception with a petition that condemns village staff, whom she said follows direction from council.

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Cumberland resident Drew Henderson has proposed a community garden at the end of the cul de sac on Willard Avenue. He said tending individual garden beds within a fenced area would give residents a chance to grow food and to socialize.

Henderson has spoken with 13 neighboring homes, nine of which favored the idea. Five homeowners said they would participate in the garden, three said no and three possibly.

"We feel there is an openness to the idea," Henderson told council.

Ideally, the garden would include a water stand on site. Otherwise, Henderson suggested a hose could run from a neighboring property.

Other issues include an approximate six-foot fence, snow removal, curb setback, maintaining curb appeal and the site itself, and startup costs for the fence and the beds.

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The Cumberland Museum and Archives proposes to replace the Visitor Information Centre sign with new Museum and Tourism Bureau signage on the museum's front lawn. The group would also like to see three parking spaces adjacent to the museum along First be designated for museum visitors. Another idea is to install a concrete pad and picnic table outside the museum.

Council referred the request to staff.

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