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New Sasquatch Museum, Visitor Centre offers hope in tough tourism year in Harrison

2021 was one of the worst years in decades, tourism director tells village council

Harrison Hot Springs residents got a closer look at what the Sasquatch Museum and Visitor Centre could look like in the near future.

Tourism Harrison River Valley executive director Robert Reyerse presented a general tourism update and more information on the new grant-funded building to village council during a particularly busy meeting on Monday, Feb. 22.

Local construction company Kurts Construction won the bid to build the new visitor centre and Sasquatch Museum. Themes for the new building are expected to include Indigenous highlights to celebrate the history of the Sts’ailes First Nation, Rick Hansen Gold Standard accessibility and evergreen glass with Sasquatch footprints etched in.

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On an optimistic timeline, Chilliwack-based Precision Design would have the design finalized in the next few weeks with architectural drawings and the permitting process taking place in April or May. The current building would either be moved or demolished in early summer, should all go well, with construction beginning in June or July.

While Reyerse said heavy construction activity throughout the area could prove challenging in terms of getting personnel and materials in a timely fashion, all involved in the project remain optimistic.

Should all go as planned, the new Visitor Centre and Sasquatch Museum may be open by next summer.

Reyerse said COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on Harrison and the other resort communities in B.C. 2021’s tourism season was further disrupted during the major floods late last year.

“2021 was probably one of the toughest years Harrison has seen in decades,” he said.

Visitor numbers were on pace with 2020; Reyerse said the traffic was primarily driven by the Sasquatch Museum with most visitors coming from elsewhere in the Lower Mainland. Website traffic was also down, with most visitors checking on COVID-19 restrictions.

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2020’s hotel occupancy took a nosedive, but there were signs of better days in 2021 – until Omicron, the atmospheric rivers and the mid-winter severe ice/snow storm caused activity to peter out for the end of the year.

Reyerse said Tourism Harrison River Valley is hopeful for this year’s tourism stats.

“With restrictions easing and COVID hopefully receding, we are expecting to see a substantial increase in tourism in 2022,” he concluded.

In other council business:

– By a vote of 4-1 (Coun. Ray Hooper opposed), Council approved the second and third readings of the 2022-2026 financial plan. There were no public comments during the open house. The council included the following amendments:$30,000 from the Parks Development Cost Charges to install two concrete permanent table tennis tables east of the playgrounds in Spring Park.

$250,000 from the Parks Development Cost Charges to construct a permanent year-round washroom and covered sitting area in Spring Park. Operational costs to maintain the area is estimated to be about $36,000 per year.

The council considered adding funding for an off-leash dog park near the fire hall, but this has been referred back to village staff to compare costs and logistics with at least one other location.

The next regular Harrison Hot Springs council meeting is scheduled for Monday, March. 7, at 7 p.m. at Memorial Hall. Online attendance via Zoom is also an option with instructions available at Meetings are archived on the village’s YouTube page.