Sustainable Tourism

Tourism is a growing industry in Pinawa. The pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions in the Summer of 2020 brought many thousands of new visitors to our town. Although we as a town have been encouraging tourism growth as a way to create jobs, it was clear that we were unprepared for the exponential increase in visitors, especially at the Pinawa Channel. We need a robust plan to manage the influx of tourists, decrease the negative friction between visitors and residents, and make sure that the tourism industry has a direct financial benefit to the citizens of Pinawa.

Tourism is an important and viable industry for Pinawa. Between the Channel float operators, golf course, motel, and the numerous summer students employed by the town, it creates a lot of jobs! But let me be perfectly clear, we do not want our natural areas to become a Mardi Gras scene and be left with nothing at the end of the season but a big mess and a headache.

Photo by Munbaik Cycling Clothing on

When tourism gets out of control, it’s not just locals who suffer, it decreases even the satisfaction of the tourists! I know as citizens we’re not quite as concerned about that, but we should be. Think about the people coming to visit. Many of them are nature lovers who want to visit a pretty town, get on the water, see some animals and have a good time. However, if things get out of control and those tourists see a party zone and a big mess, they might not come back, but the yahoos will return again and again. On the flip side, when the tourist scene is clean and peaceful, the visitors who want to party it up a bit will tend to take it down a notch. When in Rome, as the saying goes. Think about the tourist scene in a place like Cancun vs Tofino.

There were problems last year. But let’s not devolve into bullying, negativity, and hostility towards tourists and outfitters. They are our guests and Pinawanians are friendly and welcoming people. Let’s make sure to give people a smile and a wave when we meet them at the beach, the Ironwood Trail, the Golf Course, or on the Channel.

Photo by Josh Hild on

As councillor I will work towards a constructive and comprehensive tourism plan, that aims to mitigate the negatives, and maximises the positives (ie. Money!) My recommendations include:

  • Installing larger, animal-proof garbage and recycling bins in all public areas in sufficient number.
  • Improving signage, parking, and pathways to encourage visitors to check out other areas of town, reducing excessive concentration in some areas, and promoting patronage to other businesses in town.
  • The introduction of a Eco-Tourism Operators License to ensure that operators are held to certain standards of environmental stewardship and commercial practice.
  • The introduction of a Eco-Improvement Surcharge, a small fee that will be tacked onto the price of tickets charged by operators directly to the consumers (appearing as a seperate line item on the receipt). This new revenue stream will ensure that taxpayers are benefiting directly from the tourist industry, and could be reinvested in amenities for everyone, such as improvements to public recreation facilities.
Tofino, British Columbia.(CNW Group/The Network Hub)

An integral part of my plan is the devolopment of an Eco-Tourism Zone to support businesses that rely on facilitating access to Pinawa’s natural areas and waterways.

  • Enhance and modify Pinawa’s secondary plan to incorporate an Eco-Tourism Zone centred around (but not limited to) the end of the highway which is to become part of the town in the next year.
  • Develop the site near the diversion dam as an Commercial staging area for operators. This area will eventually be home to a multi-use building with Garage doors so operators can rent a space to house their supplies, such as tubes and kayaks, on site. This will reduce traffic in town and save time and effort for the companies, increasing productivity.
  • The staging area would include some small commercial spaces which would function as a check in area for guests to sign their rental agreements and get set up.
  • The building would include bathrooms to increase sanitation and the comfort of workers and users.
  • Parking would be reorganized to be more efficient and ensure safety and that the golf course paths are not blocked by cars.
  • The installation of a dock for launching of canoes, paddleboats, kayaks, and other small vessels.
An example of a building that could be part of a Eco-tourism Staging Area.

I’ve worked in customer service since I was 14, and have spent the last decade working aboard one of the world’s premier passenger trains. Pinawa is at the beginning of a tourism boom. This is our chance to define what sort of tourist town we want to be. We should be inspired by green tourism pioneers such as Costa Rica, and my plan will help get us there. When we hang out on the trail or at the beach and meet some visitors enjoying the same activities we love, remember that they are just people who haven’t figured out a way to live here, YET.

If a visitor were to ask you what to do in Pinawa, what would be your best suggestion?

Published by Michael G. King

A passionate lifelong learner, Michael loves finding elegant ways to blend science, art, and nature.

10 thoughts on “Sustainable Tourism

  1. As a non-resident of Pinawa, but a frequent visitor, anyone who has a free day in the summer needs to do the Pinawa Channel float. Last year was our first time renting tubes as opposed to bringing our own, and it made things much easier and was a fairly seamless process.


    1. Thanks for writing Neil. I agree renting the tubes from the outfitters is totally the way to go and I would encourage anyone considering the float to use them! You don’t need to park vehicles at both ends which is convenient, but also helps with the traffic situation. Take care!


  2. It is getting to the point that residents can’t and don’t leave their yards because of the droves of tourist who come to Pinawa . The trails are swamp on weekends. People actually launch their boats here so they don’t have to buy a park pass across the river. A realstate agent has commented that people are actually thinking of selling because of the weekend gong show here during the summer months .As for the eco tax or levi, that was done with the last council. This Council chose not to pursue it. So the channel cleanup was paid for by the tax payers.


    1. Thanks Denis for your comment. The concerns you’re mentioning come up when there isn’t enough planning or management. Like we talked about in our phone conversation there are different types of tourists and different types of tourist towns. Tourism does not have to change the identity of the community, with proper management and direction, we can shape the industry here to be reflective of the values and identity of Pinawa!



  3. Tourism can be such a potent, long-term economic catalyst when it’s done the right way. And the best time to get it right is now, when the industry is in its infancy for the town. I concur that the town should be pro-active about this issue.


  4. Dear Michael, thank you so much for running for council. I am reading all your thoughts on what you would like to see happen in Pinawa and I agree with most of them.

    I think your idea of having all the tourism operators together in one area is what I have been thinking for the last few years. We do have the old solid waste management site that can be safely developed since the environmental requirements are up by now. As you have said you have extensive knowledge of the tourism industry so envision if you will a spot in Cancun where all the buses congregated and the visitor buys tickets for their adventure of the day. You could go to the impending water park, you could go on the channel float, or go on a hike. Part of your package could include lunches or other food packages all provided by vendors or a local business that is in partnership with the tour operator. The point is the site could be developed for parking have vendors with souvenirs or other items for sale, musicians/entertainment and the operators. A Pinawa destination spot for managed tourism.

    When I spoke to one of the councillors and asked if they would consider the above idea, the retort was of course they had considered it. But honestly it has never been brought up in the quarterly newsletter.

    I would far more appreciate a central spot for the visitors where they can be shuttled to other areas of their choice then to have the congestion down at the diversion dam. What will happen to citizens such as myself that use these facilities every day whether or not it is -45. I can not use that area in the summer at all because of the congestion and the hoards. I have never been on the channel float and don’t intend to as there are far too many people. Another note the channel float was never a possibility because of the research station that was situated on that little island on the channel. Many people were not aware that it was basically shut off even to canoes.

    I agree with your eco-tourism license and at a rate far higher than a transient trader license of only $100. Licenses in Pinawa do not really meet the rest of the province’s rates. I am guessing here since a fee of $60 annually was certainly not high at all considering it was a viable home business. It has gone up slightly I believe.

    Pinawa was part of Active Transportation through Age Friendly and I participated in surveys and projects with the leaders in BC and Alberta; shared roads was part of that program.

    If you can also believe this there was public opposition to us planting the trees in the Ironwood Park. Lots of history here on projects that were attempted. Good luck in your bid for councillor.


    1. Thanks Nancy for your in depth comment. As far as managing a tourist industry it’s obviously complicated but important issue. Any ideas should be on the table when it comes to logistics such as parking and transportation and we will likely need a multifaceted approach visitors are interested in many areas of Pinawa. There is a limited capacity to the channel float before it eventually just becomes so busy and so unmanagable that even tourists will not be having a good time, it’s called over-tourism. There are ways to turn the dials, so to speak. Another aspect of managing the tourist industry in town is actually to increase the capacity of other amenities such as parks and the beach to spread people out. You won’t notice 100 visitors spread out over the whole Ironwood, but you will notice 100 visitors concentrated at the diversion dam. A multi pronged approach of increasing capacity in some areas, throttling demand in other areas, and diversifying the recreational options for people so that visitors are spread out and less intense. Enjoy the weekend!


      1. Thanks so much Michael for your comments. The comments are all very true and we are already experiencing over-tourism at the beach and other areas that traditionally were manageable. It is a quandary for sure and requires a thorough analysis by council before implementing new tourism attractions such as the water park and where to park. It is a record weekend! Spring is here yahoo…


  5. For feedback purposes Michael, Nancy’s suggestion is something, as a taxpayer, I would wholeheartedly support. Keeping it centralized, preventing the gong show from leaching into residential areas. Yet, at the same time, very welcoming and accommodating to tourists.


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