By Imogen Whale/North Columbia Environmental Society
The definition of eco-tourism is: tourism directed towards natural environments, especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife, intended as a low impact and often small-scale alternative to standard commercial mass tourism.
Revelstoke offers a wide range of traditional outdoor tourism for people to enjoy, but ecotourism still has space to grow here. In an effort to find gaps in ecotourism around Revelstoke, we’ve taken to the streets to come up with some potential ideas that both locals and tourists alike might enjoy.
There are a multitude of fantastic hikes easily accessible from Revelstoke. From the Meadows in The Sky to Mount Cartier or Boulder, hiking around town is a fantastic way to take in local flora, fauna and wildlife. A wide array of trails can challenge the fittest of hikers, while gentler, easily accessible routes are available for families or the elderly. Could this be a satisfying entrepreneurial experience for a certified hiking guide or is it better suited to a club that has yet to be started? There could be plenty of room for both.
The variety of birds in Revelstoke is incredible. A canoe paddle on the flooded flats in the early summer led to the sightings of over twelve adult and juvenile bald eagles, multiple grey herons, geese, and ducks. Hikes throughout the local National Parks are another great viewing area. Parks Canada notes there are 183 species of birds, including several currently at risk, living in Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Park. Giles Shearing, a local ecohydrologist and a lead consultant at SEC Consultants agrees.
With a peak season between May to August (Parks Canada says it’s possible to see 50 different species a day), a birder could invest in a couple canoes, pack lunches and introduce people to the slow side of Revelstoke, filled with the sounds of different bird calls. Currently, The Friends of the Feathers, a local group, welcomes anyone interested in birding.
Anyone who has experienced the joy of a provincial park-run Jerry’s Ranger program can attest to this camping-based program’s value. Kids spend a couple of hours each afternoon learning about ecosystems, specific local animals, weather, and so on, through interactive games and performances. Perhaps a drop in, daily naturalist group geared to children, that meets at the same place and costs a minimal amount is a potential idea. While the North Columbia Environmental Society offers a Jr. Naturalist Program for local kids age 6-9 during March break and summer, a naturalist group open to all ages is also sorely lacking.
Revelstoke is surrounded by lands appropriated by BC Hydro. Several long-time residents observed that for visiting history buffs, tours of the old Arrowhead townsite would be a unique experience. Reachable by boat and overgrown by the forest, Arrowhead was appropriated by BC hydro decades ago. The town makes for a fascinating and eerie tour. From the old school foundations to the cemetery, there is plenty to explore. Tours could be filled with historical tidbits, folklore and ghost stories. North of Arrowhead townsite float rumours of intact buildings slowly rotting under the water where the town of Mica once stood. Could diving opportunities to this lost town be offered?
The North Columbia Environmental Society (NCES) is actively working to foster both naturalists and stewardship. By offering various workshops, from hunting basics to harvesting rosehips, and engaging youth with its Glacier Adventure Stewardship Program, they are creating opportunities for Revelstoke residents and visitors to participate in activities which support conservation and observe wildlife while respecting the natural environment. In an interesting twist, the Revelstoke Local Food Initiative also bridges the gap through offering various workshops throughout the year in their Garden Guru sessions, where anyone can learn to harvest wild edibles and to can and preserve goods.
Starting a tourism based business is a challenging enterprise, but perhaps these lower cost ecotourism ideas may spark the mind of a self starter in town, and/or encourage the creation of societies and groups that foster a love and respect for the great outdoors.