There’s exciting news for tourism in Harrison Hot Springs.
On Friday (Feb. 4), the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport announced $21.3 million in grant funding for 50 shovel-ready tourism projects across the province. This includes $1 million – the maximum funding amount – for the expansion of the Visitor Centre and Sasquatch Museum in Harrison.
The ministry called the Visitor Centre and Sasquatch Museum “a key attraction that celebrates Harrison’s long history with the Sasquatch and the Sts’ailes people.” The funding comes from the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program’s Destination Development fund, during which the province distributed $20 million for 54 projects in 2021 in addition to this year’s $21.3 million investment.
“We know tourism infrastructure is a priority for communities. Today, we are responding to this call to action from the sector that will further support its recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. “Our investment in tourism creates good-paying jobs that directly support local economies now and will elevate our reputation as a world-class destination for the many visitors looking to return to B.C. for years to come.”
These projects were chosen for funding after demonstrating tourism, employment and cultural benefits.
Tourism Harrison River Valley executive director Robert Reyerse said an entirely new building for the Visitor Centre and Sasquatch Museum has been a long time coming; Tourism Harrison sent in their application for funding last September. He added the new museum would bring more indoor activities to the Harrison area, where tourism is primarily driven by outdoor activities.
“I’m excited about this because we’ve gone through a really tough few years,” Reyerse said. “Tourism destinations were hit harder than just about any community (during COVID-19).”
Reyerse estimates the museum and visitor centre attracts about 8,000 visitors per year, and COVID-19 restrictions had a significant impact on that number, in no small part due to already tight spacing.
“In terms of the impact of COVID-19, flooding…our community has really gone through a really difficult time,” he added. “This is going to be a huge positive for the community for residents and businesses alike; it’s a legacy project for Harrison, establishing us firmly as Sasquatch capital of the world.”
Reyerse estimates work can begin on the new building this summer with the goal of completion for next summer. He said he hopes to expand the museum to include more about the history of the Harrison area and the Sts’ailes First Nation.
“Tourism businesses help keep history alive in our communities, and the pandemic has really affected them,” said Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon. “The Sts’ailes peoples and their legacy are such an important part of Harrison Hot Springs, and my family loves learning about the local history of the Sasquatch. It’s great that this funding will support the expansion and preservation of such a vital and educational community landmark.”
Over the course of the next two years, the province plans to invest $30 million more into tourism infrastructure in B.C.