Mark Madryga of Global BC

Global BC puts spotlight on struggles faced by Bella Coola’s tourism industry

Bella Coola was the focus of Global’s “Small Town BC” during the first week of May and locals took great advantage of the visit

Bella Coola was the focus of Global’s “Small Town BC” during the first week of May and locals took great advantage of the visit, making sure the crew was well-briefed on all of the amazing attractions, activities, and people that make this place so special, as well as the challenges.

Sophie Lui and Mark Madryga were treated like celebrity reporters as the broadcast took place down at the Bella Coola wharf, where images of cheering locals flashed across the screen.

Madryga was a special guest on a tour of the Petroglyphs with Nuxalk guide Chris Nelson, Hereditary Chief Noel Pootlass, and Chief Councillor Wally Webber. Webber spoke of the importance of eco-tourism to the local economy.

“It’s hard to spend all this money on building stuff and not have tourists come and see it,” Webber explained. “The economy is too low right now, and we need to build it up.”

Bella Coola Valley Tourism’s spokesperson Ernest Hall echoed those concerns, as did local tourism operator Leonard Ellis, who took Lui for an afternoon tour on his boat, complete with a freshly caught prawn lunch.

Hall reiterated the need for the ferry service to be reinstated, saying the Nimpkish just isn’t the right vessel for the job. He also is calling for the direct route from Port Hardy to Bella Coola to be re-established, but the government did not agree and instead is replacing the vessel with a 30 – 40 car ferry.

When questioned on the matter, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone answered that he feels the replacement vessel the government has chosen is adequate and is not considering a reinstatement.

“We want people to be able to get to the Great Bear Rainforest,” Stone said in an interview. “We think this vessel is adequate, it will increase capacity by about four-fold.”

But local operators say this isn’t enough, and they are requesting a meeting with Christy Clark to voice their concerns. Clark did agree to a meeting with the Central Coast Ferries Working Group at a luncheon she attended in Williams Lake last month. The meeting has yet to be scheduled.