Representatives from Cache Creek businesses, council, Village staff, and organizations including Community Futures Sun Country, Gold Country Communities Society, The Equality Project, and the Province of B.C. gathered at Chum’s Restaurant on Feb. 26 for a Downtown Vision Stakeholder Workshop.
The workshop was part of Phase 2 of the Village’s Downtown Visioning Project, which arose from a business expansion and attraction study the Village of Cache Creek carried out in 2013. Phase 1 of the project took place last year with public consultation, and last week’s workshop was a way to bring business owners together and drill deeper into their vision of what Cache Creek’s downtown could and should look like.
“It’s the first step in downtown revisioning,” says Maren Luciani, principal/senior planner for Meraki Community Planning, who facilitated the workshop. She says that the data gathered will be analyzed and put into a draft report, which will then be shown to businesses before it goes to mayor and council.
“We want to get feedback from the business community and make sure the draft report reflects the vision of the community as a whole,” says Luciani. Once the finished report goes before council, she hopes that it will be adopted as policy and incorporated into the Village’s Official Community Plan (OCP). “When it’s official, it opens up more funding opportunities.”
Cache Creek’s new CAO, Martin Dalsin, says that the completed study will direct the Village about how to plan for the future. “Council will look to include it in their strategic plan.”
Workshop participants were asked to introduce themselves and state what they considered one of Cache Creek’s key assets. Weather, location, community, the people, and resiliency were common themes.
Luciani gave a brief outline of the work done to date on the project and noted that this was a starting point, adding that they were looking for targeted projects that the Village could move ahead on with limited funds. Participants were then split into small groups and rotated around a series of tables, each with large sheets of paper containing one or two questions, with each group brainstorming and writing down their answers before moving on.
The questions included “What is your definition of the ‘downtown’ area in Cache Creek?”, “What are our existing challenges?”, “What to do about existing rundown buildings/sites and absentee landlords?”, “What are our existing assets?”, and “Low lying fruit?”
Dalsin describes the low lying fruit as things that can be done in the short term and at low cost. “There will be short, medium, and long-term goals,” he says. “We have to be practical.”
Luciani says that signage was a popular theme in the low lying fruit category. “Look at existing signage and see what needs a face-lift, as well as more destination signs to draw attention to the community. More festivals and community events also came up, and so did the existing brand, the graffiti/1950s theme. Is that still the direction the Village wants to go in? If so, how can they capitalize and expand on it?”
Increasing the hours that the visitor centre is open was suggested, and Luciani says that regional partnerships were popular across the board. “People want to build with other communities and stakeholders in the region to strengthen Cache Creek.”
Dalsin says that sprucing up the downtown and making it more attractive really stood out in the comments, and that cannabis options came up a few times. “We need to see if that’s viable. And my group identified the need to start looking at fibre optics. High tech business is the wave of the future.”
At the workshop, participants identified such things as recent floods and the damage to the town’s reputation, highway closures, not enough services, a lack of well-paying jobs, lack of housing, aging infrastructure, and a lack of transportation as some of the challenges facing the Village. “Convince people we are a destination not just someplace to drive through” wrote one commenter.
Among the assets of Cache Creek were its climate and air quality, the golf course, the visitor centre, the McAbee Fossil Beds, Historic Hat Creek, land for development, and low taxes. The “downtown” was defined as along Highways 1 and 97 from the Husky to the Petro-Can, whereas the OCP defines a downtown core that also includes Todd Road, Collins Road, and Quartz Road between Highway 1 and Parke Road.
Luciani says that the finished report should be with council in spring 2019. “They can look at the low lying fruit options, see what can be tackled, and see what items will require more financial outlay. Then they can see about securing external funding to move ahead with those items.”