A group of Campbell River and Discovery Islands businesses known as the Discovery Islands Marine Tourism group are handing out kudos to the BC government for living up to its promise to expand and complete the Octopus Islands Marine Park.
The deal to purchase private property on Quadra Island from Merrill Ring, a US based logging company has been in the works for many years and is worth $5.85 million.
Spokesperson Ralph Keller applauded the land acquisition saying, “This is a good move. We tend to give government a rough ride when they make mistakes so it’s appropriate to support them when they get it right.”
He then added, “There is a tendency for government to forget that parks add value to the economy because it’s difficult for them to measure any monetary return. In reality, there is a huge industry out here that’s dependent on the high quality scenery parks provide. Wilderness tourism in the Discovery Islands puts an estimated 45 million dollars into the local economy each year and employs around 1,200 people. It’s easy for the tourism industry to connect the dots from parks to profits, employment, and paying taxes.
“We just need to remind government there’s a payoff.”
Desolation Sound, Octopus Islands, and Small Inlet Marine Parks are part of the most visited marine destination on North America’s west coast: The Discovery Islands. Combined they attract thousands of yachts from around the world to local parks, resorts, and marinas. High speed inflatable operators in Campbell River take out as many as 15,000 participants on tours every summer. On any day in July and August, more than 200 kayaks ply island water ways. According to Keller, parks form the foundation of the tourism industry here.
“People are attracted to parks because there is a perception they will have a high quality wilderness experience,” Keller said. “Being able to advertise parks helps attract visitors which keep prices and wages high.”
Discovery Islands citizens who contributed $200,000 to the effort. Minister of Environment Mary Polak, former Minister Terry Lake, and the BC Parks Acquisition & Conservation Branch kept the process on track. Other major contributors were Marine Parks Forever Society, and Vancouver City Savings. MLA Claire Trevena and SRD Rep Jim Abram also worked on the project.
It was a bittersweet moment for members of the Discovery Islands Marine Tourism Group because project leader Judy Leicester, sadly, did not live long enough to see the Octopus Islands Marine Park completed.