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Cultural and gathering space enhancements coming to downtown Port Hardy

Reconfigured area will honour ancestral history while driving visitor attraction
Carrot/Rotary park in Port Hardy. Tyson Whitney / North Island Gazette photo

The District of Port Hardy will enhance a gathering space in their downtown area with an Indigenous welcome figure, a seating area and digital kiosk, thanks to funding support from the THRIVE Small Capital Program.

Set in Carrot/Rotary Park, the project will commission local artists to create a Kwakwaka’wakw welcome figure, which will showcase the history of the Kwakiutl / Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw peoples. Welcome figures are traditionally used as markers to welcome people into a territory. They are often carved in a gesturing motion with arms outstretched in welcome. The figures will also be flanked by benches and an interactive digital visitor information kiosk.

“Throughout the pandemic we heard from the regional tourism organizations that they needed investment from government to support regional projects. THRIVE Small Capital is an excellent example of how tourism infrastructure will support projects that showcase more of what the region has to offer, strengthen community connection and experiences, plus create jobs,” said Melanie Mark, Hli Haykwhl Ẃii Xsgaak, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. “Port Hardy’s new cultural and gathering space is a boost for the community and reconciliation in action. It shines a light on Indigenous stories and creates an inclusive community to be celebrated by locals and visitors alike.”

Part of a larger revitalization of an under-utilized gathering space in the town’s waterfront park, the project also includes increased green space and a new washroom facility adjacent to the Visitor Centre. The washroom facility’s unique circular design will host murals designed by local Indigenous artists that depict the spirit world, land, sea and ocean, and will provide a programmable space for future installations such as ‘art in the park’.

“People on the North Island are known for being kind and welcoming. It’s one of the things that makes it such a great place to visit,” said Michele Babchuk, MLA for the North Island. “These upgrades to the community gathering space are a wonderful example of collaboration among First Nations and local government, highlighting the cultural richness of the Kwakwaka’wakw people while welcoming visitors to their traditional territories in a positive and informative way.”

A collaborative funding arrangement between the Island Coastal Economic Trust and the Targeted Regional Tourism Development Initiative (through Tourism Vancouver Island), provides one-stop funding support of up to 100% of project costs to stimulate and promote vitality in downtowns, Main Streets and business districts across the region.

The new greeting and gathering space is well-positioned at the gateway to the downtown core and alongside the iconic waterfront walkway. This area already hosts all outdoor community events and includes a children’s play area.

“The welcome figure and murals, new seating and greenspace areas, will add integral elements to the visitor experience,” says Mayor Dennis Dugas. “And the interactive digital information kiosk will increase discoverability of the wide range of North Island events and activities.”

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