With all three Saanich Peninsula mayors, a smattering of municipal councillors, Saanich North and the Islands MLA Gary Holman and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May in attendance, the re-opening ceremony of the Visitors’ Centre on the Pat Bay Highway on May 15 was a veritable who’s who of local politics, showing just how important the centre is to the region.
“Tourism is a really important part of this economy,” said May.
“I’m hoping we see a lot more people come off the ferry and see what the Saanich Peninsula has to offer. We really need people to know about the attractions here.”
“Each of the municipalities has an interest in this place,” added Holman. “This isn’t just any visitors’ centre. This is a regional gateway, and the province needs to play a role in supporting that.
“It doesn’t need to be big support, but little bits of support in the right areas can go a long way.”
With the centre’s re-opening, there’s a sense that it’s here to stay, said Holman.
That rings especially true with the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce moving onto the premises as their primary location.
“This is about being collaborative,” said Chamber President Craig Norris.
“We have an over-arching role for the whole Peninsula and we have to get back to that root. This gets us back there. This is the responsible thing for us. We can grow from here.”
With the smell of hot dogs and burgers grilling on the barbecue, and a turnout of more than 50 people — all smiling and chatting — there was a definite sense of celebration to the afternoon.
The Pat Bay Visitors’ Centre closed in 2013 due largely to financial reasons. It was the hard work of the communities and the members of the Chamber who fundraised to get the centre back up and running.
“Having the information centre re-open again, it’s an important part of the welcoming experience,” said Donna Petrie, executive director of the Sidney Business Improvement Area. “These guys, they are the ambassadors for our community.”
“This is a place to stop and enjoy yourself, and go a little slower,” said May of the Peninsula. “From the bottom of my heart, congratulations.”