Rally promotes tourism in Sundre
About 100 people including dignitaries attended a noon-hour rally at the Sundre Museum grounds on Monday to promote the tourism industry following the June 7 Plains Midstream oil leak on the Red Deer River.
Wild Rose MP Blake Richards and the Sundre and District Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.
Hundreds of thousands of litres of oil spilled into the river downstream of Sundre. The cleanup operation has been ongoing, with more than 140,000 man-hours already spent.
Despite the fact the leak was downstream of Sundre, tourist operators, including rafting companies, have had many calls from potential clients worried about whether the spill has made the river too dirty to use.
“We are here to tell everyone what Sundre has to offer and to promote local tourism,” chamber president Sherry Tytkanych told the rally. “We are here to remind people that the town of Sundre and local tourist operators are open for business as usual.
“Sundre has been in the news a lot lately with reference to the recent oil spill in the Red Deer River. As a result some of our local businesses, particularly tourism operators, have received calls from concerned customers whether they should cancel their plans. The simple answer is no.
“The incident actually occurred downstream from here and local prime spots for fishing and boating remain unaffected by this spill. Sundre continues to be a place to visit. Tourism is a very important industry for Sundre.”
David Todd, owner of Otter Rafting, said he has definitely noticed a downturn this year compared with 2011.
“Once the spill hit bookings dropped right off,” said Todd. “It’s been a decrease in the rate of bookings. They want to know if the river is clean, if it is safe.”
His pottery business has also seen a marked decline, he said.
“People are not coming,” he said.
Todd said the river is clean and safe.
MP Richards called the tourism industry vital to the Sundre and the wider Alberta economy.
“They are a vital link, providing travellers with the activities that promote Canada’s very identity,” said Richards, who is chairman of the Parliamentary Tourism caucus. “When these tourists go home, they remember our country as the place where they went trail riding, whitewater rafting or heli-skiing. They remember our hospitality and they tell their friends.
“Sundre is here and it has a lot to offer, with many recreational opportunities, like fishing, rafting, golfing, camping. It’s all right here.”
Mountain View County councillor Paddy Munro also spoke during the rally, reciting comments provided by Sundre MLA Joe Anglin.
“Tourism is a big part of Sundre’s economy,” said Anglin. “I am proud to support and promote the tourism industry in Sundre. Know that Sundre and the backcountry were unaffected by the spill and that the tourism sites are wide open and waiting.
“Sundre and the West Country await your outdoor adventures.”
The rally received media coverage from TV and radio stations from across Alberta.
Following the rally, Richards, Tytkanych, chamber member Heidi Overguard and Sundre town councillor Chris Vardas took a brief ride on the Red Deer River through Sundre in a show of solidarity with local tourist operators.