Efforts are under way to create a valley-wide visitors services centre, following a report on the topic at the latest Columbia Valley Directed Funds Committee meeting.

The report, presented on June 16th, examines the existing visitor services in the valley, and makes recommendations on how to streamline them into a single, co-ordinated service. It was prepared by Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Special Initiatives manager Andrew McLeod, and work on it began after the directed funds committee approved $5,000 for the report in August 2013.

“Under the current setup, both the District of Invermere and the Village of Radium Hot Springs pay directly for visitor services to the two chambers (of commerce), while the rest of the valley does not pay anything, yet receive the benefit of these services,” said RDEK Area F director and directed funds committee chair Wendy Booth. “The goal was to find a way that everybody pays their fair share. I think if we are able to combine visitor services to be valley wide, besides everybody paying their fair share, there can be many efficiencies achieved rather then duplication of services.”

The report recommends setting up an RDEK Columbia Valley economic development service to fund valley visitor services and proposes a formula to fund it. The formula assumes a $200,000 annual operating budget, with $18,531 coming from the Village of Radium Hot Springs, $43,056 coming from the District of Invermere, $5,978 coming from the Village of Canal Flats, $115,473 from RDEK Area F, and $16,962 coming from Area G.

The contribution amounts are based on property assessment values for each area.

Radium is the most logical location for a single valley-wide services program, according to the report, given three factors: the Radium Visitor Centre’s long-standing experience delivering the larger of the two visitor service programs in the valley; the physical location of its Visitor Centre operations; and its relationship with Parks Canada

The report adds that a single valley-wide visitor service does not mean only one visitor centre in the valley, and suggests that a “southern gateway” visitor centre, in Fairmont Hot Springs for instance, or one in a place with a large economic impact such as downtown Invermere, would be good additions to the main Radium centre.

McLeod told The Valley Echo that the proposal doesn’t necessarily mean the exist visitor centre at the Crossroads or the downtown Invermere visitor information kiosk will disappear.

“It (the proposal) doesn’t mean that there couldn’t or wouldn’t be visitors services at that location (the Crossroads). It’s just that, if there was a main visitors centre on highway at Radium and another ‘southern gateway’  visitor centre on the highway at Fairmont, it may not make sense to have a third visitor centre on the highway by Invermere, when maybe it could be downtown instead,” said McLeod.

Booth will be presenting the report to the two local chambers of commerce and the valley’s three municipal councils (Radium, Invermere and Canal Flats)  in the next few weeks. The RDEK board of directors has voted to refer that a Columbia Valley Economic Development Service be made part of the RDEK’s 2015 strategic priorities process, which will take place later this year or in early 2015.