The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Board of Directors has adopted its 2022-2026 Financial Plan and the budget including funding towards a three-year plan developed and managed by Tourism Fernie for Sustainable Tourism in RDEK Area A.
Fernie and the surrounding Regional District of the East Kootenay region have continued to see growth in both tourism and recreation over the past decade and longer. This growth in use of area trails, lands, lakes and rivers has given rise to the need for better amenities, education and management though a collaborative effort for long-term sustainability.
Fernie’s Tourism Master Plan identified Sustainable Management as a priority and in 2020 Area A Director Mike Sosnowski funded a RDEK and Tourism Fernie pilot project to identify challenges and opportunities in the front and backcountry that support sustainable tourism including stewardship and education. The goal was to find initial priorities to help manage locations important to residents and visitors where usage is growing but lack management and infrastructure to handle the growth. The pilot project, which included a survey of Area A and Area B residents, was successful in creating priority recommendations that have led into a three-year pilot program valued at over $800,000. In addition to critical funding from the RDEK, other funders currently include the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture & Sport and Freshwater Fisheries Society, with others being confirmed. The initiative begins this spring/summer with a variety of key actions.
Director Sosnowski comments, “I am very pleased with how Tourism Fernie, with its partners and project committee, moved so diligently and quickly to define the priority areas and create programs to manage the identified challenges and opportunities. This is a great start to making tourism more sustainable in the RDEK and I’m pleased to support the resiliency of the industry.”
The RDEK Tourism Sustainable Management Strategy project is an initiative to create immediate priority actions to help protect and maintain the safety and quality of life of Elk Valley residents, the visitor experience and the area’s natural heritage.
Based on the data and input received the following Focus Areas were developed to help identify actions to address the needs:
– User Etiquette, Safety, Education & Communications
– Maintenance, Resources & Responsibility
– Infrastructure, Amenities & The Experience
– Data, Capacity & Managing Impacts
– Monitoring & Enforcement
– Land-Use/Management & Conversation
Through a collaborative effort that includes organizations such as the Elk River Alliance, Fernie Trails Alliance, BC Rec Sites & Trails, College of the Rockies MAST Program, Coal Creek Heritage Society, Ktunaxa Nation, Landowners and others, Tourism Fernie will manage and execute the three-year project that includes efforts at key access points along the Elk River, trails such as Heiko’s and Silver Springs and important assets such as the ammonite.
“From the engagement that took place during the development of the Tourism Master Plan for Fernie, and the additional engagement with Area A residents, NGOs and businesses, we were able to clearly identify priorities,” explained Jikke Gyorki, Executive Officer of Tourism Fernie. “We are grateful for the support of the initial project committee that included Dave Richards, Lee-Anne Walker, Joe Caravetta, Dan Savage, Pat Gilmar, Scott Gilmet and others.”
From signage and a communication program to support responsible and safe travel and recreation, to improved boat launches, amenities and a unique program called AmbassadorWILD to have boots-on-the-ground to help engage with users about etiquette and safety while collecting important information for decision-making and helping with light duty maintenance. Information and guidance will work with existing organizations and their programs such as AdventureSmart, WildsafeBC, Leave No Trace and more while customizing the content for the Fernie area.
RDEK’s 5-Year Financial Plan for 2022-2026 was formally adopted by the RDEK Board of Directors on Friday, March 18th. Copies of the full plan along with a summary of the highlights are available online www.engage.rdek.bc.ca/budget or by request through the RDEK’s Cranbrook office.