Britannia Beach ponders becoming one of B.C.’s top tourist attractions 

Federal, provincial government agencies, UBC involved in concept

Imagine driving past Britannia Beach and seeing a glass elevator making its way to the top of the large step-shaped, refurbished concentrator where visitors can now dine with a view.

Imagine pedestrian walkways to the dock where families and visitors can play and look out across the inlet.

Imagine a wetland, which is detoxifying mine-polluted water, as you wander its pathways.

It may sound fantastic but researchers, federal and provincial government officials, industry representatives, business interests, the local museum and the people of Britannia Beach are all working together to try and make the dream come true.

"Certainly the museum is very much welcoming it," said Kristin Clausen, director of the B.C. Museum of Mining.

"Even if this dream takes longer to realize than we want there is a really strong, positive will happening between everybody."

Currently the plan is at a concept stage. Designers were given a free hand, with no budget in mind for the development, to come up with ideas for the re-invention of Britannia Beach around it historical roots.

There are several bodies involved in the infant project: National Resources Canada wants to build a mining innovation centre; the University of British Columbia wants to build a research centre; the museum wants to expand; the new owner of Britannia Beach, Macdonald Development, is moving ahead with upgrades and development of the town site; and other interests, including the provincial government, which owns the mine and is working on the clean-up of the site, are also involved.

Funding would come from a number of sources including the private sector and federal and provincial governments. The plan must be economically self-sustaining to be undertaken.

"We undertook a conceptual design and pre-feasibility concept of locating a centre at Britannia," said Michael McPhie, senior policy advisor for Western Canada with the minerals and metals sector of National Resources Canada.

"(We wanted) to look at really capitalizing on what Britannia has already done which currently attracts 40,000 visitors through their modest infrastructure there."

The federal government is also keen to put a better face on the area which thousands of visitors will drive past everyday on their way to the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler.

"The truth is in our opinion if Britannia looks the way it does now when the world comes to Vancouver and Whistler and it still presents an image of the past in the way it does then we won’t have done our job," said McPhie, adding that NRCan has had a scientific presence at the site for almost two years.

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