Headline in the Examiner yesterday: “Visitor Center Traffic Lower than Expected.” And it doesn’t surprise me at all.
I love our new neighbours right across the road from us here at FRESH. Nice people, in spiffy new surroundings here in the downtown.
But that’s the problem. It’s downtown. I love the downtown, and love bringing people to the downtown. But from the beginning when I heard that the Visitor’s Center (VC) was relocating to the downtown, I thought it was a misguided strategy.
Wherever I have traveled to points beyond – read ‘road trip’ – VCs are usually on the highway, with easy access BEFORE you get to the city you’re visiting. Easy exit from the interstate, lots of parking, and big signs screaming “Hey! Tourists! Stop here! Use the bathroom! And get free oranges…”
Whenever I’ve had to hunt for a VC in the middle of town somewhere, it’s been a nightmare…even with good signage. Why? I don’t know the city. I’m a stranger. I don’t know my way around. And the last thing I need is to struggle to find my way to a VC in the downtown that will give me maps, and advice in order to avoid struggling to find my way.
There are better tourism minds than mine, and this is just my opinion – I don’t want to second-guess the brain trust that made that decision. However, I well remember when I was new here and this city can be confusing as hell if you’re not familiar with it. And don’t get me started on the one-way streets.
Sure, there’s parking downtown, with the King Street Parkade practically across the street. But the VC is now, instead of an easy left, then a right off the Parkway (the so-called Gateway to the City) with a handy Tim Horton’s to boot, is now sitting between two one-way thoroughfares. If you come in from Charlotte Street, then okay – a right onto George and it’s a couple of blocks down. But do visitors appreciate beforehand that George is one-way?
And if you happen to be coming up from Lansdowne, the building you want to get to is just beyond the point when you HAVE to turn as George breaks off from two-way traffic and splits to one-way, but now you’re on Water Street. Okay, there is parking right at your left. Not too bad.
But if you’re a stranger to the city – a tourist – all this can seem pretty confusing.
Okay – so the original VC had to vacate to make way for the casino. So why couldn’t they have found a way to shoe-horn a small building at the northeast corner of Crawford Drive and the Parkway where the signs are now? You’re coming right off the Parkway, heading to Peterborough and bam! The VC is right there, an easy right from the Parkway.
If that space is too tight, could it be moved up a bit, perhaps closer to Costco?
Or, maybe tuck it in on the 115 / Bypass near the airport exit, but right off the 115, if you please…
I hope things pick up at the downtown VC. But I feel for anyone new to the city trying to find it. I remember being new to this city in 1976 and until I got used to it, navigating the downtown was not fun.
A Visitor’s Center that’s a quick right off the Parkway or the 115 / Bypass without having to look for it would be the far better option.
Do ya think?