Wednesday brought you your last Westerly News of 2016.
Santa will be here soon and our good-lister kids will spend a joyous few moments basking in the happiness he leaves behind while we count down the seconds to another New Year. Our current 525,600-minute streak is coming to an end.
I won’t miss this year. It took Prince from me. But, I’ll remember it fondly because, while the T.V. was terrifying—Donald Trump is America’s president-elect—our Coastal backyard looked divine.
We did well this year. We crowned champions, held cleanups, banned straws and harrumphed loudly enough at our local leaders to convince them to change course and head in the right direction a few times. Remember when Ukee Days was headed to Tugwell Fields?
My favourite part of 2016 though, was you. You read the heck out of your local newspaper. My dog loves you for that. You kept the food rolling into her bowl all year while showing you care about your community’s happenings. Keep reading and keep filling my inbox with all the kudos and criticisms you can muster. I love your love and your angst equally.
I’ve got a good feeling you will too because there’s plenty of cliffhangers to keep you tuned in.
We loved on, and complained about, more tourists than ever before in 2016 and our collective hospitality—summer’s gorgeously prolonged sun gets an assist—kept the good times rolling well into what we used to call ‘shoulder season.’ Our economic success was easily quantified by how hard it was to find a parking spot in October. That ship’s showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s sailing full speed ahead. Locals might steam over that.
The pendulum of public perception has been swinging for a while now. This could be the summer the jeers outnumber the cheers for our tourism economy.
Tourism Tofino has $1.2 million to spend on attracting visitors to our beaches next year. Tofino’s additional hotel room tax is going up to 3 per cent and that increased revenue will build a shiny, new visitors centre at Cox Bay and, conceivably, keep the tourists pouring in.
It’s a season-finale cliffhanger you should be engrossed with because I’m not sure council’s ever been so concerned over its capacity as it was last summer. While they scramble for strategies to address affordable housing on the cheap, a ton of dollars will be spent on filling every square inch of available shelter with tourists.
One of the most fascinating twists to that plot is how many of those tourists will be staying at illegal vacation rentals our municipal budgets can’t afford to crackdown on. Both Ucluelet and Tofino plan to raise business license fees so they can pay for bylaw enforcement. That’s risky business because neither town has a knack for enforcing anything and, if people are paying for something, something better be done.
We know something will absolutely be done at the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The Park plays with federal money, Trudeau money, and that dreamy young Capricorn whips out his—our—wallet to whatever captures his whimsy. $18 million on a trail that will pave through paradise, disrupt wildlife and create bicyclist bottlenecks at both ends of a narrow and winding highway full of blindspots? That’s change I can believe in. By which I mean I can completely believe Trudeau endorsed it.
Whether we’ll harrumph loudly enough to convince Ottawa to change course and do the path properly is something you’ll have to tune in to find out.
Not convinced yet? The most obnoxiously decadent building in downtown Tofino will likely be a police station this time next year. Its kitschy design will blend in about as well as I do at the gym.
Speaking of buildings, that multiplex referendum passed; didn’t it?