Geocaching may be the next big craze to entice tourists into the back country, members of the West Chilcotin Tourism Association (WCTA) were told at their June 8 annual general meeting in Tatlayoko Valley.
Heidy Lenz, Program director for the WCTA, told the 22 people in attendance that geocaching is a low impact, non-consumptive activity whole families can enjoy. The use of geo-positioning equipment (GPS units) isn’t reliant on cell phone service, which makes it perfect for the West Chilcotin.
“It’s an activity for people who love to go outdoors,” Lenz added, explaining that Bob Abbott, a summer resident of Anahim Lake, has already established 80 geocaches in the area and is poised to put out a bunch more.
Lenz invited WCTA members in Tatlayoko and other parts of the region to get involved with Abbott, to broaden the geocaching network and landbase.
Some members suggested placing geocaches in interesting and unusual places in the backcountry, like on islands in various lakes, on mountain trails or even on mountain peaks. From a tourism operator’s perspective, this activity would give visitors something interesting to do in the region, and give them reason to visit the area or stay longer.
“It’s an on-line, high tech treasure hunt,” Heidy said.
Donn Irwin, owner of The Dean on Nimpo Resort, said he had two couples from Quesnel last year who came specifically to the West Chilcotin to go geocaching.
Duncan Stewart of Stewart’s Resort and Camps said Abbott’s goal is to have 1,000 geocaches in the area. “But he needs our help maintaining them and setting them up.”
Lenz said she plans to set up a Facebook page for geocaching on the group’s West Chilcotin website.
Amy Thacker, CEO of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association, said tourism promoters in Gold Country in the Thompson Okanagan region have tied geocaching with gold stories of the region. “Each cache has a researched story in it. It’s a way of sharing the locals’ knowledge of the country.”
Thacker said there is a strong international geocaching movement. “Some people are quite fanatical about it.”
She said some groups take the initiative to clean up and maintain the geocache sites. “It’s a great thing to do that doesn’t cost anything.”
Lenz referred WCTA members to the website www.geocaching.com to learn more about this phenomenon.
In other WCTA business, Duncan Stewart accepted the nomination to join the seven-person board after Kerry Jacox of Nimpo Lake Resort decided to step down. Stewart gave a report on the Vancouver Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show, which he said had a good volume of good quality people, and quality presentations.
With the tourism industry in the midst of significant change, Stewart said he attended the Vancouver show to learn as much as he could about new trends coming down the pike. “I was there to listen,” he said. “Our fishermen clientele is down 60 per cent from ten years ago. In response to that we developed air tours, and found that Europeans want to fly in floatplanes.”
Stewart concluded that the people attending the Vancouver show are potential customers for tourism in the West Chilcotin. “There are a lot of people in Vancouver who haven’t seen the rest of BC,” he said. “Vancouver is a huge resource of people.”
Ernest Hall of Bella Coola Valley Tourism, said tourism operators in the West Chilcotin and Bella Coola Valley have one asset in common and that’s the Discovery Coast Ferry between Port Hardy and Bella Coola.
He said it’s in the best interest of the tourism industry and local economy is to encourage the ferry customers to linger longer in the region by providing interesting and fun things to do. “We need more stops of interest for tourists to visit.”
Hall said Bella Coola Valley Tourism is putting up four-by-eight-foot Alumicor signs describing local points of interest. He said the signs cost under $400, can be decorated with large format photo images, and are maintenance-free. “We are getting businesses to sponsor the signs. They can tag their logos along the bottom.”
Stewart said there are several viewpoints along Highway 20 that could benefit from information signs.
Donn Irwin put a plug in for retaining log and rail fencing along the highway to preserve the rustic character of the West Chilcotin. “It’s a shame to see our legacy of Russell and snake fences being replaced by wire fencing. We need to retain as many log rail fences as possible,” he said.