As we all know, there is a simple two-step procedure for anyone who wants to market a product or service. Step 1: advertise so people know what you’re selling. Step 2: ensure your product or service is appealing and user friendly.
When it comes to promoting our official eagle-viewing area, the District of Squamish follows the formula diligently. But they certainly missed the mark this season in the product presentation department.
District communiqués leave no stone unturned in the quest to make the world aware that Eagles R Us. Tourism Squamish devotes a full page on its website to this marquee attraction and the district’s dedicated website directs visitors to an “accessible park” located on the municipal dike on Government Road in Brackendale. That makes for great advertising copy, but frankly the only accessibility after the snowstorm in December, and well into January during the peak viewing period, was for visitors who were willing to navigate the slippery slopes leading up to the dike. Anybody who wasn’t ready to take the risk, including many seniors and the disabled, was out of luck. The condition of the paths, stairs and wheelchair ramp was nothing short of an embarrassment.
Those circumstances, coupled with very limited eagle-related signage on Government Road and meagre parking, sent a blatant message to visitors that this town just can’t seem to get its act together. A similar attraction located south of the border, or in Whistler, would be transformed into a well-groomed, showcase venue.
The official spin from the district is the annual arrival of our celebrated avian visitors is a major local event and a pillar of the budding Squamish tourism sector. With very limited upkeep required and a volunteer-driven Eagle Watch program, the viewing facility is hardly a tax drain.
On paper, we certainly have no shortage of personnel to get this key site up to speed. The Squamish Parks and Trail Maintenance department has a mandate to handle pathway upkeep. Their mission statement is to “strive to provide a safe and clean environment for all our users.” Our Engineering and Operations department is responsible for the maintenance of roads, bike paths, sidewalks, and dikes. We employ a Trails Coordinator, an Economic Sustainability Coordinator and we’re about to hire an Events Coordinator. Our Economic Development Advisory Committee meets regularly. We fund Tourism Squamish and bankroll the Squamish Sustainability Corp.
This year’s eagle-viewing window of opportunity will soon be closed. In the future, surely a few folks from the above-mentioned tangle of municipal departments, hired hands and committees can arrive on site with a couple of buckets of salt and snow shovels to make one of our most important community assets easier to access.