Pemberton to receive backcountry gateway funding 

The Village of Pemberton will receive thousands of dollars in funding from the provincial government to boost its fledgling tourism industry.

"We are the ‘gateway to the backcountry,’" said Mayor Elinor Warner. "Pemberton is very unique and the surrounding area – the rivers and lakes, the mountains, the hot springs, the parks – gives us our identity."

The program, which was started by the NDP’s Small Business and Tourism ministry in 1999, will recognize the community as a gateway to ecotourism and adventure travel in the backcountry.

Pemberton applied for funding from the B.C. government last spring after completing a tourism opportunity study that detailed the feasibility of developing its tourism industry.

Warner told Pique Newsmagazine that Pemberton will most likely receive somewhere between $50,000 and $80,000 to hire a gateway project co-ordinator and establish a tourism development office.

Currently, the town’s visitor information centre only operates four days per week and is closed during the winter.

"People aren’t aware of what we have to offer," she said, "but it’s unbelievable."

Gateway communities serve as staging areas for ecotourism and adventure travel experiences, headquarters for backcountry businesses and provide accommodations and other services for visitors and residents.

"It’s excellent news," said West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Ted Nebbeling. "The program will certainly assist Pemberton in promoting its great recreational opportunities."

Nebbeling said the province’s public lands offer great opportunities for tourism and the Pemberton area is no exception.

The gateway community program recognizes that the tourism industry is a way to generate sustainable and well-paying jobs in traditionally resource-dependent towns.

Golden, Burns Lake, Fort Nelson, Wells, Valemount and Lake Cowichan are other communities funded by the program.

"The program will be a real benefit to the community," noted Pemberton Chamber of Commerce president Mark Blundell. "We’ll be able to tell the world that we’re not just a spinoff of Whistler."

Warner added that Pemberton village council, the chamber of commerce and the downtown business association has been working closely with the provincial government to ensure the area’s backcountry is not overcrowded and fraught with land-use conflicts like those in Whistler and Squamish.

But Pemberton will be the last town included in the gateway communities program. According to Nebbeling, the new provincial government is scrapping the program after the official announcement, which should take place in the next couple of weeks.

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