Fanny Bay is still open for business, despite the fact Highway 19A to the south is closed into next month for work.
The community has been trying to encourage visitors to stop in for a visit.
“People are taking pictures, posting them, trying to make up for the lost tourism,” says Area D Director Daniel Arbour, who represents the unincorporated communities south of Courtenay on the Comox Valley Regional District.
People in Fanny Bay had little notice when they found the Old Island Highway was going to be closed for about six weeks on a stretch between Cook Creek Bridge and Berray Road in order for the highway contractor to replace a culvert. This started on Aug. 12 and should continue through Sept. 20.
Summer is the high time of the year for tourist traffic, and the closure did have an immediate impact. Roxanne Milligan, who co-owns the Fanny Bay Inn, says business dropped right off on the first Monday.
“The first day it was pretty quiet,” she said. “I was pretty upset.”
However, the Fanny Bay community responded quickly with the Fanny Bay Challenge. They want people on the Island, especially in the Comox Valley, to pop down the highway for a visit to support the local businesses while the highway work is happening. So far, Milligan says she has been impressed by the support they have been getting from people.
“People are coming from all over the Island,” she says.
The Fanny Bay Inn is one of the most notable sites, but there are others like the Fanny Bay Trading Co. and some micro-businesses such as fruit stands, and a woman who sells glass beads, Arbour says. All are affected by the closure at this busy time of year.
Arbour has also been hearing from communities like Union Bay and Royston that they have also found business has been a bit slower with less traffic on Highway 19A. Even though drivers can get back on the Old Island Highway following the stretch that is closed, it seems many are simply continuing on the Inland Highway.
“Once they’re on the big highway, they don’t come back down at Buckley Bay,” Arbour says.
Right now there is a “bit of a buzz,” but Arbour wants to sustain the momentum and hopes his colleagues on the Comox Valley Regional District will get behind the challenge with an official proclamation at the next CVRD meeting scheduled for Aug. 27.
“We’ll just try and encourage everybody in the Comox Valley to come on down south,” he says.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure wanted to replace the culvert, which was the site of a washout two years ago, with a larger pipe, and there are limited environmental or fisheries windows to complete the work. Stakeholders were only identified in the first week of August and the contractor, Mainroad North Island, had been contacted by the ministry about two weeks prior. Information about the closure was posted on the DriveBC website as well as on signs along the route. Currently, electronic signs on Highway 19A state Fanny Bay businesses are open.