This summer has seen the biggest physical changes to the City of Nelson for many years. It has been a challenging season for some of the downtown businesses and residents, but the benefits are already becoming clear as the work on Hall St. progresses to its third phase towards the lake.
There has been a lot said about how the community has been impacted by the work, so here is a perspective from those involved in and affected by the business of welcoming visitors to the area.
Tourism is vital for many local businesses and their employees. Visitor numbers have been good, though not spectacular, this year. The smoky skies kept some away during the critical month of August, and, overall, we will likely not make up the shortfall that resulted from the relatively poor snow season. Without the tourists, many of the businesses most affected by the Baker/Hall St. redevelopment would have been even harder hit.
Those that came continued to tell us how unique and individual this city and the communities along the lake are compared to other places that they have visited. First-timers are always surprised that they “do not hear more” about the area, and are sometimes astounded that there are such vibrant, feisty, self-contained communities so far away from other large urban centres.
As an accommodator in Nelson, I have heard a lot of comments but no complaints about the work in the downtown of Nelson. Likewise, the visitor centre reports that, on the whole, people have understood the need to refresh the streets and update essential infrastructure.
It’s easier for visitors, perhaps, as they can leave the disruption and head away after a couple of days, but at least they know that Nelson is not resting on its spectacular laurels (and spruce), but is going to be a smarter town next time they come this way.
Many businesses along the shores of Kootenay Lake would struggle or fail without the patronage of out-of-towners. On behalf of Nelson and Kootenay Lake Tourism, I would like to thank everyone who has helped create some fantastic memories for our visitors this summer by welcoming them, serving them in our stores, cafes and pubs, putting on a show for them, renting them a kayak, or selling them a bowl or a picture (let alone putting out a fire or two).
We are not primarily a tourist town, but we can be very proud of what we are and what we have to offer, and we are now in a better position than ever to share our stunning location and incomparable spirit for life with people travelling from all over the world.
Chair, Nelson Kootenay Lake