Visitors attend the Ladysmith Heritage Boat Festival over the weekend at the community marina. - Mike Gregory Photo

Ladysmith Community Marina gave $1.2M boost to local economy in 2016

The ‘friendliest marina on the west coast’ as it’s known amongst boaters contributed over $1 million in economic impact last year, says the Ladysmith Maritime Society’s executive director Rod Smith.

“We’re just here to serve the community and work with the community in any way that we can to help in terms of economic development and cultural diversity,” said Smith, speaking with members of the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association at their monthly meeting on Thursday.

The LMS, a registered charity, is “aggressively pursuing marine tourism” through events such as the Heritage Boat Festival, Dine on the Docks, Kids Pirate Day in addition to the Ladysmith Community Marina’s many educational offerings.

In 2016, the marina welcomed 6,475 visitors resulting in $700,000 in direct annual spending impact with a total annual economic impact of $1.21 million. That’s well up from the 2200 visitors and $200,000 in spending from 2011 – a year prior to the opening of the floating 3,000 sq ft welcome centre.

Conservative estimates used by the LMS is that spending per boat is approximately $250 daily.

Over 200 volunteers help to create the welcoming atmosphere on the docks and pitched in 20,000 hours last year, catching ropes as boats pull in and helping to point tourists downtown to shop.

“We work hard to drive people up into town and to create a concierge type atmosphere,” he said.

The catchment area for annual or seasonal slips at the Ladysmith Community Marina is from the Nanaimo River south to the ChemainusRiver and the almost 170 slips are booked solid.

Still, with affordable moorage rates there is a waitlist of about 45 boats waiting for a spot to open up. In addition, there is over 1000 ft of dock space available to visitors and many marina members with slips benefit by renting out their spot temporarily through a revenue sharing program.

Smith said the new Waterfront Area Plan presents an “tremendous opportunity” for the marina and Lot 651, otherwise known as the Dogpatch.

“We see one of the greatest opportunities to expand the marina to the south area,” he said. “We were just talking to the federal government recently and they just completed a study of the underwater view on what’s going on in Dogpatch and there’s a lot of stuff to be cleaned up – the expansion of the community marina is a natural.”

Other improvements to help improve economic spin off from the marina would be user-friendly walking paths, improved signage and a free shuttle to downtown.

LMS has also formed a partnership with Vancouver Island Expeditions for a soon-to-be pickup at the Machine Shop and there’s even a possibility of that company developing a Ladysmith tour in the future.

More work is also being done to attract kayakers to the town as a destination on the BC Marine Trails network.

Smith said he’s hanging his hat though on the waterfront study and a pivotal part of that is the partnership with Stz’uminus First Nation.

“It’s not about the boats it’s about making the harbour a great place for my kids a big part of the opportunity in this is the Stz’uminus First Nation,” he said.

“The thought having it cleaned up, usable and a cultural showcase that features and integrates First Nations culture on this side of the harbour is the thing that will really make Ladysmith a must-see place.”

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