The McLean Mill Visitors Centre Hall, decorated for a wedding event on September 9, 2017. CHELSEA DAWN PHOTOGRAPHY

Wedding plans derailed following City of Port Alberni’s train announcement

Five wedding parties are scrambling to find alternate transportation arrangements to McLean Mill National Historic Site now that the City of Port Alberni has cancelled all train trips to the mill for 2019.

The brides-and-grooms-to-be had already booked the train as part of their wedding packages at the mill.

READ: City of Port Alberni cancels tourist train operations for 2019

One groom-to-be noted on social media that they hadn’t been given notice that the train was going to be cancelled, and his wedding is only two months away. “Definitely only booked because there would be transportation for guests,” he said.

Family of another bride coming from out of province said she is disappointed that the city has “bailed” on its commitment to run the train for her wedding.

City of Port Alberni CAO Tim Pley said the city is working with individual wedding parties on their transportation needs, and are seeking alternate forms of transportation such as shuttle buses. That suggestion has elicited comments and at least one meme poking fun at the idea of a wedding shuttle bus vs. a train.

Pley said although transportation via train to McLean Mill is sold as part of a wedding package, it is a line item just as the venue or food services is a line item. “There is a clear rider at the bottom of the (booking sheet) that acknowledges the train is heritage equipment and is prone to short notice non-availability. People who book it, acknowledge that when they book it,” he said.

“I’m not trying to say it’s anybody else’s fault, but our practice is to warn everybody that we might not be able to provide this because it’s been so challenging in the past.”

One bride-to-be responded to an online comment from mayor Sharie Minions that her contract states some “equipment” is old and cannot be guaranteed, but because there is more than one train she didn’t think that was a risk. She also said she received an e-mail in December from someone at the mill stating that a train would be available, they just didn’t know which one.

Pley said the city will approach each wedding party individually about transportation challenges, and that they are considering refunds if the parties find their own transportaton.

We’re working on what that would look like,” he said.

There are 14 weddings in total booked into McLean Mill as a venue for the coming season, including the five that paid for the train.

There were other events besides weddings that had already reserved the train, and they will also be approached, he said.

“I think council considered disruptions to any and all people that had bookings. That’s what makes this so difficult.”

Council has not yet passed its 2019 budget, which will need to be adopted by mid-May.

Pley said the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society, which operates the train for the city, could put a train on the tracks if they wanted to assume financial responsibility without the city’s assistance.

“If they want to operate the train and don’t rely on city resources, that would be a conversation to see how we would enable that,” he said.

The AV News has reached out to the IHS for comment.

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