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Port Alberni, the Valley and Pacific Rim National Park
by Jerry W. Bird

Adventure Roads BookLike a giant arm reaching over halfway into Vancouver Island, Alberni Inlet is the channel from where BC forest products reach the open sea, bound for destinations near and far. Perched at the inlet's base is Port Alberni (pop. 28,000), linked to North American and world centres thanks to the Alberni Valley Airport." Our first scheduled air service has been a long time coming", says Bill Ellwyn, Director of the Alberni-Clayoquot Economic Development Commission. "People who haven't been able to reach us in the past will be able to buy to buy a ticket in Frankfurt, Tokyo or wherever, right through to Port Alberni. That's going to have a positive effect."

With Open Skies the timing couldn't be better for Alberni-Clayoquot, a tourism centre embracing Barkley, Bedwell and Clayoquot Sounds, the Broken Islands Group, Long Beach and the famous West Coast Trail. Its quaint villages of Uclulet, Bamfield and Tofino are compared to California's Monterey Peninsula in earlier days when life was kinder, gentler and slower-pacer. Local restaurants serve a bountiful array of fresh and saltwater fish, crabs, mussels, oysters and shrimp.

Alberni Valley Airport was literally hacked out of the forest, thanks to a creative blend of financial savvy, research and community spirit. The airport complex is situated midway between Sproat and Great Central Lakes and because of low surrounding hills and prevailing winds, it is less affected by low cloud and ground fog that other area sites. At the blueprint stage is a seaplane base featuring a man-made trench running parallel to the airport.

Opportunity Knocks for Packaged Tours
"Tourism is huge thanks to Pacific Rim National Park," says Bill Ellwyn. Visits have grown by 10 per cent annually to around 800,000- and that's without good air service. The first major foray will be into Packaged Tours, and tour organizers are welcome. There are great golfing opportunities in Central Vancouver Island - where a week of superb golf can be enjoyed at a different course each day.

Scuba diving is a big draw with phenomenal reefs, drawing a lot of diving enthusiasts from overseas. Two fishing lodges were sold recently, one to German interests who are focusing entirely on the Adventure market. Adventure Tourism is the way of the future, rivaling traditional fishing-based vacations.

What were Port Alberni's previous connections to the outside? You could charter a seaplane to Vancouver at no small cost, take a 90 -minute drive to the nearest airport at Cassidy; or drive to Nanaimo and spend close to 2 hours aboard a BC Ferry to Horseshoe Bay. What is now a scenic half hour flight to or from Vancouver was once a 3 I/2 hour journey. It took a good piece of the day just to get here and back, leaving little time to do business or enjoy our area's attractions.

The area has a strong business base, which according to Bill Ellwyn, is beginning to diversify. "One thing we do very well here is grow trees:, says Ellwyn. "Since forestry is a huge part of our economy, we're focusing on value-added business, more finished products manufactured locally." Outside investment has been attracted thanks to good property values and the lifestyle benefits of a smaller community. The retirement market has spurred the housing industry, commercial fishing and our large retail sector are key contributors; but tourism is a top priority.

Mid Island Paradise: From Port Alberni the highway winds west to Pacific Rim National Park with its 3 distinctive facets: the white sands of Long Beach, Barkley Sound's Broken Islands Group, and the West Coast Trail. Known as 'graveyard of the Pacific' this stretch of coast has claimed 50 vessels in the last century.

Visitors, be they whale watches, bathers at Hot Spring Cove, ocean kayakers, divers, trail hikers, surfers who brave the roaring waves- each group feels they've discovered a personal best kept secret. Other area attractions include the M.V. Lady Rose, Della Falls, Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery, Mount Arrowsmith and the Alberni by road, visit Macmillan Provincial Park, Cathedral Grove, Cameron Lake and Little Quallicum Falls, joining the north-south highway near Parksville. Coming events include Port Alberni's Salmon Festival and Derby in August and the fall fair-Logger Sports in SEPTEMBER.

This area has a great deal to offer. For more details contact: Alberni-Clayoquot Economic Development Commission, 47757 Tebo Ave., Port Alberni, BC V9Y 8A 9. (604) 723-2188 Fax (604)723-1688.
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