The grand opening of a brand new floating reception centre cast off the start of the Ladysmith Maritime Festival on Friday afternoon.
The 3,000-square-foot building is the newest jewel in the Ladysmith Harbour and the highlight of the Ladysmith Maritime Society [LMS]’s $2-million facilities project.
In addition to harbouring meeting rooms for both public and private functions, the LMS Community Marina Reception Centre also offers showers, washrooms and laundry facilities for maritime visitors. There is also improved accessibility and safety within the marina and a marine sewage pump out station for all boaters using the harbour.
“We view it as a critical part of the project because of the impact on the environmental health of the harbour,” said LMS president Doug Bell.
The reception centre also features two posts in its gathering area that were donated from the HMCS Oriole, one of the Royal Canadian Navy’s sail training vessels.
On the doors to the building are a special decal designed by Coast Salish artist John Marston. When funds become available, the design will be cast in aluminum and placed on the doors as handles, Bell explained.
The project’s purpose is to attract large-scale marine tourism to the harbour and stimulate economic development for the region.
“Today we’re celebrating, not the leaving of heavy industry, we’re celebrating the birth of a new industry — a vibrant, far more environmentally friendly marine tourism industry in our harbour,” said Mayor Rob Hutchins. “We hope to one day fill this inner basin with a marina that will rival Roche Harbour.”
Approximately $1.2 million of the project funds came from the federal government, while $550,000 was donated by the Island Coastal Economic Trust [ICET], with the remainder provided by LMS and the Town of Ladysmith.
John Duncan, minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, attended the grand opening, representing Lynne Yelich, minister of state for Western Economic Diversification.
“I consider it money well spent for a very deserving community,” Duncan said. “We think the spinoffs from this project are going to be quite incredible.”
According to Bell, approximately 75 per cent of the visiting boaters are from off-Island locations such as Vancouver and the Puget Sound area.
He said the project has not only been about securing the infrastructure needed to attract visitors, but also to welcome the community and build the growing community of volunteers who also use and help improve Ladysmith Harbour.
“When you combine the two, you can create an environment that is magic,” he said. “It’s our hope that over time, we’re going to see more and more activity.”
In the last 12 months, LMS members have contributed in excess of 20,000 volunteer hours for activities like the Maritime Festival, the restoration of the Saravan, the LMS Museum and the purple martin program, Bell said.
Bell gave credit to two volunteers in particular — Keith Gillanders and Cheryl Bancroft — for their volunteer contribution to the new facility.
During Friday’s grand opening, a special joint event took place which saw the signing of a new community accord between the Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith. Pearl Harris and Buffy David performed a blessing and prayer with the assistance of their students.
“They’ve been absolutely outstanding — both the Stz’uminus and the Town of Ladysmith,” Bell said. “When Chief Elliott asked me if we would consider doing that as part of our opening ceremony, I was absolutely delighted. It’s our hope that we’re going to see many more joint celebrations and functions.”