AdvantageHOPE is preparing for a busy year of green space and trail development, tourism services and marketing of Hope as an alternative to city living.
The direction for this year was announced at the annual general meeting of the organization March 27. AdvantageHOPE is Hope’s economic development and tourism agency, tasked with implementing the district’s economic development strategy.
“It was a year of change, it was a year of growth. New faces and operations adjustments,” said Patrick Earl, executive director of AdvantageHOPE. Earl took over in 2017 from Tammy Shields and a new operations manager, Sarah Brown, came on board in 2018.
Earl said it had been a “highly successful year for grant approvals.” The largest of these, the Rural Dividend Grant, was awarded to the organization. The grant, which will carry through to April 2019, will be used to fund things that normally cannot be funded by traditional grants, such as design work.
TURBULENCE AND GROWTH IN VISITOR SERVICES
The visitor centre saw increased visitors, despite a turbulent year: visits increased from 47,530 in 2016 to 49,195 last year. The centre closed from October to January, then re-opened in a modular building.
“We conducted operations remotely for a few months at the end of last year,” said Earl. “While some of the other centres are showing decreases, we are showing increases still,” said Earl.
The roaming visitor services — during the Rambo 35 celebration and pop-up visitor services — also went up 89 per cent.
The top inquiries from visitors were about the Othello Tunnels, Rambo and the Hope Museum.
“Currently the museum is not operating because of the closure of the building,” said Brown. “There is obviously interest in the museum and we’re going to be looking in 2018 for some ways to keep our collection accessible when our building is non-functional.”
Earl is also working on plans for a “business market”: local and regional businesses will exhibit along Water Avenue outside of the visitor centre. The market is much more than a craft fair, Earl said, as its open to all businesses. The plan is to run the market seven days a week from mid-April to October 1.
“NON-TRADITIONAL” ASSET DEVELOPMENT
The work of attracting AdvantageHOPE’s target demographic, young urban dwellers with young children, will continue. This includes asset development work on what Stephanie Hooker calls “non-traditional” infrastructure, distinct from the traditional water, sewer and roads managed by the district.
“Trails and signage, parks, waterfront development, high-speed connectivity, food security; all those things that make a community livable, attractive and contribute to quality of life,” said Hooker, who manages the asset development portfolio for AdvantageHOPE.
Developing these assets are important in order to prepare for more density and a growing population while maintaining quality of life for current residents. This includes demarcating and protecting trails and green space, as well as increasing amenities to lure new residents to Hope.
A trail planning committee will continue discussing trails, mountain bike paths and pedestrian connections such as Hope to Chawathil.
In 2017 signage for the Othello Tunnels and the Hope-Nicola Valley Trail were developed by AdvantageHOPE, they will be going up this spring. The historic rail route from the Othello Tunnels through Hope will also be demarcated with a metal trail decal.
A three-person trail crew will be hired this year, it is a two-year trial project by AdvantageHOPE that Hooker said pays high dividends to the community. Hope is one of the few municipalities with a paid trail crew, with Squamish leading the way.
The 74-kilometre Hudson’s Bay Company Heritage trail between Hope and Tulameen, a hidden gem Hooker called “Hope’s Westcoast Trail”, has been built with Hope Mountain Centre playing a huge role. It will be promoted with a trail map coming out this year.
Hooker explained the continued focus of AdvantageHOPE on tourism was two-fold; first as it is the largest sector of the local economy, second as a recruitment tool for future businesses and residents.
“Tourism does a couple backflips for us. Tourism is also our resident and business attraction campaign,” she said. “Everybody who chooses to move to Hope, experiences Hope as a visitor first. So we want to make sure those visitor amenities are really top notch.”
EXPERIENCE THE FRASER CLOSER TO REALITY
David Urban, manager of outdoor recreation planning with the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) presented new steps in a project ongoing since 2009, Experience the Fraser. The project spans from Hope to the Salish Sea: the component running through Hope will open access to Hope’s waterfront and turn the underside of the Fraser Bridge into a linear park for pedestrians and cyclists.
“One of the holdbacks was, they needed an engineer design, and that is very cost prohibitive. It has been a stumbling block for years,” Hooker said. “In 2018 we’ll be going out and hiring the engineer to do the design, that’s incredible for Hope.”
Other initiatives include implementing the municipal and regional district tax (MRDT), a tax on hotels that is then used for tourism marketing, activating agricultural lands around Hope and building up astro tourism together with Manning Park Resort. A video of the annual general meeting can be found on AdvantageHOPE’s Facebook page.
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