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Squamish signing up for tourism

Community moves to become a learning destination

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It’s easy to take signage for granted. Missives on metal are so ubiquitous along our roadways that we barely even notice them. Rather, we just absorb their directives with the same amount of thought applied to breathing.

Even when luminous or otherwise extravagant, signage rarely warrants much of a second look. After all, the door itself is seldom a draw; most people want to know what’s behind it.

But, as Squamish grapples for a position in the corridor’s competitive tourism market, signage will play a role in positioning the town as a learning destination, one part of a sightseeing and recreation identity that includes assets like the Chief, Shannon Falls, the Estuary, rock climbing, mountain biking and windsurfing. The threshold between the door and the expanse beyond it could become pleasantly blurred.

“Certainly, a big part of the whole eco-tourism topic is the idea of a learning destination,” said Councillor Patricia Heintzman. “What does that mean exactly? People come here for courses; people come here for university. But is there a value-added experience for all of our tourism activities? As you’re rafting down the river, are you also getting a geology lesson?”

Presently, there’s an interpretive loop at the oceanfront. There are also learning destinations at Stump Lake and Shannon Falls.

“It’s a broader ideal of creating all kinds of destinations all over the community,” Heintzman continued. “So pretty much, anywhere you’re going, you’re appreciating the landscape and the people who live there.”

According to Heintzman, Meg Fellowes of the Squamish Environmental Conservation Society will be among the first to establish a new interpretive loop. The two women met last week to discuss the idea, which would take cyclists from the Adventure Centre up to the Mamquam River.

“She’s calling it the Salmon Cycle Route,” Heintzman said. “You might learn about eagles and habitat at one stop, and you might learn about geology at another, or First Nations and edible plants at another.”

Through Tourism Squamish, the district has been working to re-brand itself as a base camp destination. The hope is to lure in travelers bound for Whistler and encourage them to stay a night in Squamish, either on their way to or from the resort municipality that defines the Sea to Sky corridor for most travelers. The learning destination concept factors into that campaign, said Heintzman.

“It’s certainly idealistic, but it’s an achievable ideal for sure,” she added. “The key is to get a conceptual ideal of where this could go, and then put a plan together to systematically get it done.”

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