written by Trish Weatherall reprinted with permission from North Island Gazette
Alice in Action: Citizens’ Group Brainstorms Future of Port Alice
Twenty-three Port Alice citizens gathered at the Sea View Activity Centre on Sunday, January 17, to collaborate on ideas for the future of the village, which has seen economic difficulty since the March 2015 Neucel Specialty Cellulose mill layoffs. The meeting, named Alice in Action, was a brainstorming session for locals to share ideas, aspirations, knowledge and experience, organized by residents Pauline Steele, Susan Mohler, and Bev Steffler.
Steele, who in October wrote an open letter to Port Alice residents to encourage shopping locally, retired to Port Alice six-and-a-half years ago. “This place ticked all the boxes,” she said. “I love it here, I’m not going anywhere. I want to see this place survive. It might not go back to the way it used to be, but I’d like to keep what we’ve got.”
Alice in Action attendees ranged in age from mid-twenties to mid-seventies, and included lifelong residents, recently retired newcomers, and a few entrepreneurs.
The key topic of discussion was the need to promote Port Alice’s strengths to tourists and new residents, which were identified as the natural beauty of the inlet and surrounding mountains; a mild climate; the sheltered waters of Neroutsos Inlet for sailing and kayaking; the affordability of housing; the peace and quiet; the absence of significant crime; ocean and logging road access to the West Coast; nearby lakes; and the accessibility of wilderness and wildlife.
Rona-Lee Syme retired to Port Alice with her husband two years ago. “Wechose to come here for retirement,” she said. “This fit the bill. It’s affordable, you can live by the ocean, and it’s got so much beauty here. It’s a real little gold mine.”
Village Councillor Dave Stewart, a 35-year resident said, “I don’t care if I’m the last person in town I’m going to keep forging ahead to get new people here and keep people here. I’m here to do whatever I can do to help.” Stewart owns two Port Alice properties and has a potential recreation idea to attract surfers to the community.
Stewart’s wife Natalie, a lifelong resident, said, “I’ve seen what Port Alice can be. We’re trying to entice people and families to move to this community. People working in camp jobs, families, and for the single moms, it’s a perfect place to raise kids. Just how much easier it is here, everyone really comes together, we have inexpensive sports, and we do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for young families.”
Other topics and ideas included:
- a lack of accommodation and food services
- development of B&Bs, or an informal network of Air B&B type accommodations
- encouraging entrepreneurs to invest in Port Alice
- attracting tourists
- attracting retirees
- welcoming government-sponsored refugees
- grooming and promoting the dike hiking trails
- naming and promoting the Port Alice road as an attraction for motorcyclists
Organizers of Alice in Action are planning follow-up meetings, which they hope will lead to more community involvement and development.
Current actions include new promotional web sites and a citizen organized business development workshop on January 30th. Steele created the web sitevancouverislandhiddengem.com to help market Port Alice and local real estate to retirees. Mohler is in progress creating portalicelife.ca, to promote life, events, arts, culture, and business in Port Alice.