By Steve Hubrecht
The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce recently conducted an online survey asking local residents and businesses their opinions on closing down part of Invermere’s main street to vehicle traffic on Fridays and Saturdays this summer, making it pedestrian only.
The survey launched in mid-January and closed earlier this week on Monday, Feb. 5. There were in fact two separate surveys on the topic — one for local residents and another for business owners.
The chamber ran the survey on behalf of the Invermere Business Committee, which touched on the idea during one of its monthly meetings.
“There has been a lot of discussion of some sort of downtown closure for a long time. There’s been a lot of talk about it . . . (but) the Invermere Business Committee felt it would be a good idea to get some concrete data, some tangible results,” Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Pete Bourke told the Pioneer.
A pedestrian-only main street has been discussed by Invermere council twice in the past decade, the last time in early 2020. Both times the topic was outlined as merely a possibility. But both times the mere mention of the idea provoked a strong backlash from a number of downtown business owners, and the idea was dropped.
That pushback was strong enough that when a resident wrote to council in 2021 suggesting a pedestrian-only downtown, council members quickly turned the idea down. At the time Mayor Al Miller and councillors Gerry Taft and Kayja Becker said that any such plan in the future would need to originate from the local business community.
And, with the topic having sprung from the Invermere Business Committee, that is precisely where the idea has come from this time around.
Bourke noted that, as far as he knows, there was no hard data involved in any of the previous discussions about a pedestrian-only main street, and added that’s what this survey intends to do: provide some numbers.
The chamber will compile the results and then present them to council.
Bourke emphasized the chamber and Invermere Business Committee have a neutral position on the matter, saying “there are pros and there are cons on both sides. We’re not advocating one way or the other.”
The survey included an image (see photo) highlighting 7th Avenue between 9th Street (near AG Valley Foods) and 13th Street (at Disfunction Junction and the banks). This part of 7th Avenue is the main strip through downtown Invermere, and one that the Invermere Business Committee is seeking input on closing to vehicles.
But that’s not set in stone, according to Bourke.
“There could be some variable in what part of downtown is closed, what time of day, what days of the week. It depends on what business owners and residents think.”