The Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Visitors’ Centre was inundated with hundreds of requests for information in the first few days after Highway 4 was closed due to a wildfire near Cameron Lake.
“On the first day of the closure they went above and beyond their responsibilities, assisting over 300 visitors in person and supporting more than 50 people over the phone,” chamber CEO Jolleen Dick said.
There were four staff members working on Wednesday, the first full day of the closure. Staff extended their working hours to accommodate travellers stuck behind the highway closure, advising them of the closure and later the alternate route out of the community as well as what they should consider before making the trip, Dick added.
Summer student Brynn Waisman only started Friday, which was still a busy day for the visitors’ centre. Having her on board meant the visitors’ centre was able to stay open on the weekend. The visitors’ centre is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Maps and information are available for people who need to travel for essential purposes.
One of the challenges visitors’ centre staff have encountered is an issue with Google Maps. When people not familiar with the area look for ways around the highway closure the fastest route shown is through the Horne Lake connector or Comox Main—both of which are behind locked gates. The Horne Lake route is being used by emergency service and B.C. Wildfire Service personnel as an emergency route only.
“We’re trying to let people know that’s not the route to go and we want them on the designated detour route,” Dick said. She said the chamber is advocating to the provincial government to have that information changed in Google Maps.
Dick said she hasn’t heard much feedback from businesses yet on the impact the wildfire or highway closure has had, but she expects that will come. “What has been taking up our time is the impact on the travelling public,” she said.
Businesses facing supply chain difficulties are encouraged to reach out to the chamber for guidance, she said.