Sylvan Lake councillors earmarked over $80,000 towards tourism strategies or tourism-related facilities during 2013 budget discussions, spread over Oct. 30 and 31, and Nov. 3.
A tourism strategy and advertising campaign for Centennial Park and the Lakeshore area, at a combined cost of $27,500, initially received mixed reactions.
Councillor Dale Plante was enthusiastic, citing promotion of the town’s new parks as an area of importance.
“If there’s ever a time we should support tourism in Sylvan it’s now,” said Plante. “We’re looking at a tourism strategy to draw people to stay here for a week … We’ve been naive to think that people are going to come here just because we have a lake.”
Mayor Susan Samson agreed with Plante, citing the struggling downtown business area.
“I just don’t see tourism as being a big economic strategy … People are going to come here whether we spend that money or not,” said Councillor Laverne Asselstine.
Another area of contention was the Beach Ambassador program. The town hired three summer students as Beach Ambassadors this summer, at a cost of $40,000. They provided visitors with information about town events and businesses, and were intended to spend most of their time patrolling the beach on foot.
“I think $40,000 is very high for what we’re getting,” said Plante, adding that the ambassadors spent most of the time in their hut instead of patrolling the beach. “I don’t think it served its purpose at all.”
Plante suggested hiring a mix of students and older workers to supervise the students to ensure the job was properly done.
Other councillors, including Rick Grimson, were supportive of the ambassadors. Councillors decided to continue the program in 2013, with Samson requesting a review of their work at the end of the year.
Councillors budgeted $25,000 towards adding sand to the beach corner at the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and 49th Street, despite some worries.
“I’m just really concerned that we might get mocked for building a sand box,” said Samson.
Asselstine noted how many people with children gravitate towards that beach corner, because it is the only section that slopes gradually into the water.
“Let’s make the area look good … I just think it’s a total go,” said Plante.
Other councillors were supportive, but more cautious. Some worried about the sand getting washed away during a rainy summer.
“I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t think it should be an ongoing expense, just try it once,” said Grimson.
In recognition of the town’s centennial year, councillors set aside $30,000 towards a new town parade float. The current float is in disrepair, but some councillors were hesitant about the cost.
“I think the float is a misuse of funds at that amount,” said Plante. He proposed a media campaign, in addition to the beach sand, as better ways of celebrating the town’s centennial. “This is the kind of money that can go a lot farther, as far as I’m concerned, than sitting in some stagnant float … I’m in favour of the float, but I’m not in favour of the amount of the float.”
Councillors decided to keep the float, at the full cost, in the budget after communications officer Joanne Gaudet said the float would be used for many years.