Our take: New visitor centre missed chance to really reflect our valley
Cowichan’s new $2-million visitor centre is a welcome model of cooperation between local and provincial governments, and our chambers of commerce.
But the long-awaited centre also marks missed opportunities to truly reflect the valley’s unique aspects.
We cheer enthusiastic support for the centre replacing Duncan-Cowichan chamber’s near-invisible facility beside Duncan’s liquor store.
But behind Tuesday’s sod-turning smiles and speeches sat issues that could have made our new tourist facility much more, likely for less taxpayer money.
For starters, some folks fear most motorists are headed north, and could pass the turnoff to downtown Duncan once they reach the centre, fronting the highway and B.C. Forest Discovery Centre.
Visitors must backtrack to enjoy the city’s core’s shopping, totems and other attractions.
Or they might skip Duncan, a possibility that should concern city council.
In fairness, local leaders say they tried in vain to find other centre sites, including the old Silver Park Restaurant lot south of the silver bridge.
Now it’s worth building a gateway visitor centre in south Cowichan, possibly along the Malahat.
That kiosk could greet northbound motorists, and lend chances to plan stops between Mill Bay and Duncan before hitting the main infocentre.
The southern satellite — again showing cooperation — could perhaps occupy a heritage bunkhouse donated by, and promoting, the struggling forest museum that salutes our timber-based history.
The main centre could also have been fronted by an historic structure flanked by uniquely designed office and meeting space.
Instead, we’ll build a barn-style building perhaps reflecting Cowichan’s farming industry.
Fine, but our valley also holds a huge arts-and-culture sector, twinned by environmental design smarts found at O.U.R. Ecovillage and elsewhere.
Green ideas, such as rammed earth, could have joined the centre’s planned LEED features in a Wow-factor showpiece — maybe copying a Coast Salish longhouse, or a heritage hotel.
Indeed, $2-million seems a big price for a faux farmhouse in an arguable location.