Whitewater kayaking on the Quesnel River is enjoyed by many travellers seeking adventure in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region. (Greg Sabatino photo)

Whitewater kayaking on the Quesnel River is enjoyed by many travellers seeking adventure in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region. (Greg Sabatino photo)

MAYOR’S COLUMN: Maximizing Quesnel’s natural strengths

Mayor Bob Simpson looks at Quesnel’s branding efforts

When the City was undertaking its rebranding exercise, one of the consultants asked if we were happy being a community people simply thought of as a nice place to “drive through,” as that was the main feedback they’d garnered from a perceptions survey they’d conducted. The question, and the perception of the City it reflected, struck a chord and framed not only our rebranding exercise, but the hard work of renewing the City’s Official Community Plan (OCP).

Quesnel is located at a naturally beautiful place: the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers and Baker Creek, with nature’s beauty and bounty surrounding it. Yet, the City has never taken full advantage of its natural surroundings, particularly its location on three waterways.

Yes, we have a wonderful riverfront trail system, one of the most vibrant downtown cores in the Interior of BC, and lots of opportunity for people to explore the natural environment surrounding our City, but, until recently, none of that had been marketed in any concerted manner. Instead, we’ve long prided ourselves on being a forestry town, with an abundance of mills and lots of jobs. In fact, at one time, Quesnel enjoyed one of the most concentrated and diverse forest manufacturing sectors in the world; and we still have a lot of that milling capacity in operation today.

But, not only do we now have fewer mills operating in our City, there are simply fewer jobs in today’s modernized manufacturing facilities. For a number of years now, the fundamental nature of our economy has been changing, so we needed to change the way people perceived the City and what we have to offer to visitors, residents, workers, and investors in order to remain resilient and sustainable.

Hence, our rebranding away from the “Gold Pan City” to something that has broader appeal to today’s workforce, to families looking for a safe and fun place to live, and to visitors looking to spend their money in communities that offer diverse recreational opportunities as well as robust heritage, arts and culture. Our new City brand and our proactive community marketing strategy are paying dividends for our community: attracting new residents, new investment, and, COVID notwithstanding, visitors who aren’t simply driving through the community, but coming here specifically to enjoy what Quesnel has to offer.

Part of our rebranding and our new Official Community Plan is focused on taking much fuller advantage of our key natural strengths: the riverfronts that form the heart of the City. The overall plan for these areas was developed with significant public consultation and we’ve been successful recently in obtaining grants to develop components of the plan this spring and summer; specifically, upgrades to the walking bridge and the Fraser River portion of the Riverfront Trail and building an RV Park and camping area on the Quesnel River.

Last week Council approved the funds to conduct a feasibility study for another key component of our Waterfront Strategy: the possibility of creating a whitewater park in the Quesnel River right in our downtown. Having a whitewater park in Quesnel would allow us to take full advantage of our natural strengths and make our City a place that people from far and wide would come to – extinguishing the perception of Quesnel as simply a nice place to drive through.

For more information on our Waterfront Strategy please visit: www.quesnel.ca/waterfront-plan.

READ MORE: Quesnel council changes course on whitewater standing wave

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