Rolling kiosks, a covered sidewalk, a café in St. Mark’s garden and tiny houseboats are just a few ideas in a new report on Port Clements tourism.
Written by John Colton, a community development professor from Acadia University, the 26-page report calls Port Clements a “relatively undiscovered” tourism spot with rich natural and cultural heritage.
“This area is stunning, it blew me away,” said Colton, speaking with the Port Clements tourism committee last month.
“People are not really seeing the many opportunities there are here to discover.”
Colton has ties to Haida Gwaii, where he led Gwaii Haanas kayak tours in the late 1980s and 1990s.
Even then, he said taking groups north usually meant a day to see Tow Hill and North Beach, and maybe a quick stop in Port Clements to hike to the Golden Spruce before leaving.
In the report, Colton suggests several ways Port Clements could draw more people to the nearby backcountry, such as extending and linking the Golden Spruce and Sunset Trails, a bird tower in the Yakoun River delta, or kayak trips to Juskatla Inlet.
But many of the report’s recommendations are focused on things to do in town.
To start, Colton suggests people in Port Clements form a dedicated non-profit tourism association.
In the first few years, it would look at small improvements — more tourist info on the village website, better signage, public art, a walking map, maybe a logger statue.
Building on the success of St. Mark’s Gallery and Gift Shop, Colton also suggested putting a small cafe/kiosk in the St. Mark’s garden, and having another mobile one for selling food, art, or crafts.
Three to five years from now, the tourism group might consider bigger projects, such as adding an old tug to the Port Clements Museum, running guided history tours, or installing a covered sidewalk from the museum to the Yakoun River Inn.
“I can’t think of anyone who didn’t think something like a boardwalk or covered sidewalk wouldn’t be a good idea, given the large truck traffic going through town,” said Colton, who toured Port Clements and the area for 10 days in September.
“Whatever it might look like, it’s a nice way to bring things together.”
Finally, in the next five to 10 years, Colton imagines the tourism association would focus largely on the Port Clements waterfront by repairing Rainbow Wharf and adding stairs to the beach and perhaps a small building at the end.
The waterfront plan would also mean remediating and building on the old Chevron property next to the wharf, and perhaps trying what grabbed a lot of people’s imaginations at the September meeting — having a few micro-houseboats for rent in Masset Inlet.
Dale Lore, a former mayor of Port Clements who leads tours of the surrounding backcountry, cautioned that there could be liability problems if many inexperienced tourists start using active logging roads.
“I know what the truck drivers would think if we threw 50 un-radioed vehicles out there with no clue,” he said.
Lore suggested an approach similar to that in Gwaii Haanas, where wilderness visits are largely guided.
Colton agreed such liability questions are an issue, and also noted in his report that some of the ideas require consulting with the Council of the Haida Nation, and a few major funding requests from provincial agencies, particularly the remediation of the Chevron site.
One advantage of Port Clements’ relatively late start in tourism is that there is more time to take an approach that suits the community long-term.
“A lot of times tourism gets out of control,” said Colton.
“This is a good opportunity to be very strategic.”