News that the carved focal point sign that used to grace the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce property has been repaired has generated a lot of buzz for the past week.
Many people want the City of Port Alberni to put the sign back where it came from, and forget about spending thousands of dollars on a new welcome sign.
The sign, designed by artist Kim Schroeder and carved by Elmar Schultes, was first erected at the chamber in the 1980s, and stayed there until the new visitors’ centre was built in 2011.
The focal point sign is a beautiful piece of artwork and deserves to have a place in our city—maybe at the visitors’ centre, maybe at Harbour Quay, as long as it goes somewhere that people can stop and admire it.
Using it as a welcome sign is not the place.
We’ve struggled with our identity for decades—before the focal sign was dismantled and the new visitors’ centre constructed, the infamous ‘Bear Tracks and Lumber Jacks’ theme was unveiled to criticism. It never took off, although one of the logos was used for a little while on wayfinding signs and letterhead.
The ‘Welcome to the Alberni Valley’ sign that sits on the side of Highway 4 a few hundred metres beyond Coombs Country Candy is starting to look tired. It needs a new coat of paint and some lighting. It was installed in the mid-2000s, a project of the late Cherry Creek area director Glenn Wong.
While this sign has been a welcome to millions of travellers as they come down the Highway 4 Hump since then, it welcomes people to a place that is not located on any map. Travellers will often say they have never been to Port Alberni, even though they drove to Tofino, because they didn’t realize Walmart or Starbucks were actually located in ‘Port Alberni’.
The idea of having a ‘Port Alberni’ sign—a city that has official map representation—has been discussed off and on since then, with no resolution.
The financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic cannot mean that the city comes to a standstill. The welcome sign has been on the books for a number of years, and a decision needs to be made on what design is best suited, and how much it will cost.
The focal point sign was never easy to read for traffic passing by; which could explain why it was never reinstalled once the visitors’ centre was rebuilt. It deserves a better fate as a piece of art.
— Alberni Valley News