Port Renfrew is looking to reopen to the public. (File contributed/Portrenfrew.com)

Reopening Port Renfrew: isolating community considering how to do it

Community looks to reopen to the public as provincial restrictions loosen

Dawn Gibson | Sooke News Mirror

A leisurely stroll along Botanical Beach may be closer now than just a daydream, as Port Renfrew looks to reopen to visitors.

Over the past couple of months, including the May long weekend, the public has been respectful towards residents’ wishes to keep the community isolated, said Mike Hicks, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director.

As of March 22 residents put up signage in the area and online asking non-resident visitors to postpone their trips to the communities, which had been overwhelmed by people looking to escape self-isolation in the area’s beautiful coastal scenery.

Port Renfrew and the Pacheedaht Nation closed all their businesses, the San Juan Market moved to a delivery style service for residents, and all beaches, marinas, campgrounds and accommodations were closed in response to the pandemic.

Now, as restrictions loosen and the coast begins to clear, the community seeks to once again welcome people to the area.

ALSO READ: Port Renfrew aims to keep visitors away to avoid spread of COVID-19

A committee was formed with “key members of Port Renfrew and the Pacheedaht Nation” who are diligently working on a game plan of how to reopen.

“They are trying to decide when they can open to the world, or to as much of the world as the government will allow to come,” Hicks said.

Along with other areas on the Island, the tourism industry in Port Renfrew will take a hit this summer, not seeing the usual inflow of out-of-town guests.

“It’s tough going,” Hicks said “Port Renfrew is bracing for a difficult summer as it is now, but who knows how fast things will change.”

Hicks said in past years, most tourists come from the U.S., overseas, and from the B.C.mainland, which will likely not be the case this year. He hopes once the Port Renfrew region opens to visitors, Island residents will show support.

Port Renfrew has a population of 140 people, while the Pacheedaht Nation is around 200, with one general store and a small volunteer firefighter department of 16 people.

“This has brought the community closer together, and I am proud of them,” Hicks said. “They came together and decided when they would close, and they will decide how and when to open again, in consultation with [provincial health officer Dr.] Bonnie Henry.”



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

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