Culture crawl readies to run up and down Bulkley Valley

After five successful summers in Smithers, the Bulkley Valley Museum hopes to expand into the Five Rivers Culture Crawl.

Culture crawls may soon start running up and down the Bulkley Valley.

After five successful summers in Smithers, the Bulkley Valley Museum is looking to expand the self-guided walking tour into the Five Rivers Culture Crawl.

The expanded culture crawl would include a network of similar tours in nine towns between Burns Lake and Hazelton.

“Tourism here is very strong with hunting and fishing, ecotourism, skiing and so on,” museum director Fergus Tomlin said.

“But the cultural tourism side has not been exploited.”

Speaking to Houston’s district council, Tomlin said what Bulkley Valley towns can offer tourists is their “Main Street” appeal, a chance to chat with the locals while they visit exhibits tucked in local grocery stores, churches, even fire halls.

“You just have to give them that moment to mix with people,” he said.

“That’s what they remember.”

Tomlin pointed out the valley is full of historical gems and scenic areas that don’t get much attention.

Quick is a great example, he said.

If you pull off the highway onto Quick Road, Tomlin said, one of the first things you’ll see is St. John the Divine, a small wooden church where people still use the oil lamps and foot-pump organ that have filled it with light and music since 1914.

Continuing down the road, Tomlin said Quick is a perfect picture of “rural Canadiana,” full of ninety-year-old farms with the Babine mountains as a backdrop.

From a commercial perspective, Tomlin said the whole idea is the more time tourists spend in such places, the more likely they are to spend money here.

For the last five years, Tomlin said, the Smithers culture crawl has brought in many more summer tourists who would typically just drive straight through to Prince Rupert or Alaska, a selling point that convinced the Omineca Beetle Action Committee to grant the Five Rivers Crawl $50,000 in seed money.

Recognizing the value to the regional economy, part of the OBAC funds will go to culture crawls in Hazelton and Moricetown, even though they are technically outside the committee’s jurisdiction.

Tomlin is now touring Bulkley Valley towns, including smaller communities such as Granisle and Fort Babine, asking local governments and museum directors for letters of support so the project can secure grants from other sources.