By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: March. 31, 2012
Could someone ask McDonald’s to incorporate a “Welcome to Squamish” sign between their golden arches?
The fast food company has been welcoming people to Squamish for so long they might as well make it official.
Or Squamish could do what it’s been hoping to do for the past eight years: Build a gateway at the intersection of Highway.99 and Cleveland Ave., and tell people there is a town beyond the golden arches.
At least, that is what Lee Malleau, the then economic development officer, was thinking in 2004 when she first proposed a ‘gateway’ to Squamish.
The arches of this gateway would have a permanent welcoming message, one that would simply tell people that they are about to enter a town.
“There was little or no indication to highway travellers that there was a downtown beyond the intersection,” Malleau said of her motivation to initiate the project.
Eight years have passed since that proposal, still there is no indication yet to highway travellers beyond the McDonalds.
The Highway. 99 sign, vandalised and then finally destroyed by a truck, sits in our municipal yard. The tourist season approaches, and for a town whose new economy is supposed to be based on tourism, there is nothing to tell visitors a town lies beyond those golden arches.
The accidental destruction of the highway sign might be a boon in disguise, says downtown business owner, Marnie Lett.
“We are actually excited about the opportunity brought about by the destruction of the current sign. The ruined sign did not meet the mark in terms of how it presented downtown Squamish,” she said.
“My ambition would be to see the flags extend all the way across Highway 99 and then wind up Logger’s Lane to the Tourism Centre and spread out over the first parking lot from the highway turn off.”
Eric Armour agrees a gateway sign needs to point tourists and visitors to downtown Squamish.
He admits it might be difficult to quantify the benefit of the gateway sign to Squamish in dollars and cents, but says the sign would augment the district’s policy of business expansion and retention.
“I would be very disappointed if there was nothing in the budget for the gateway project,” he said.
In May, 2011, egged on by DSBIA, the council received the downtown Squamish entrance improvement report, and its findings were clear.
As many as 56 per cent respondents said the intersection of Highway.99 and Cleveland Ave was the best place to have the welcome sign.
A large number of respondents said it was ‘very important’ to build a welcoming sign into downtown Squamish.
Even with that clear message, the staff asked council to defer the matter until the multi-modal transportation plan has been adopted.
Now, that plan has been adopted, but there has been a nary a discussion regarding the entrance.
Speaking to the Squamish Chief this March, Cameron Chalmers said the district’s capital budget doesn’t include significant improvements this year.
That means more delays for a project that most people agree would benefit the town.
Until then, we have the golden arches.