The Hole-in-the-Wall Conundrum

There is a debate in town about whether this place should be a tourist attraction. Some say it already is. Others say “keep it as is”. And other issues swirl around it. The actual location of the hole is on land owned by the City of Port Alberni, but getting to it is on land controlled by Mosaic Forest Management. They are not known for welcoming people on their property without due notice. And there is more stuff too.
Here are a few shots of it to illustrate what else is there.

Roger Creek makes a U-turn at the Hole-in-the-Wall. Here it is cutting through cliffs of shale, a very soft rock. So the early engineers who built the first waterworks for Alberni took a short cut through the rock wall
And the water falls into a little swimming hole where only the most adventurous dares to use the rope.
Upstream from the Hole, where Stokes Creek joins Roger Creek is another dam from the same ptoject. The end of an old pipe is visible on the right.
The remains of the first water supply to serve Alberni before it merged with Port Alberni originally. These hoops originally bound wooden staves. However, a century later, just the the hoops are left.
A rough trail leads downstream from the Hole-in-the-Wall to this dam at the top of a waterfall…
Seekers Media Video crew in the field. Hired by the city and its partners to promoting things to do in the valley, whether they are on private land or not. there have been other film crews here as well.
These Inukshuks were all built by visitors playing with the flat rocks that litter the creek banks. Roger Creek has some of the best skipping stones I’ve ever seen.

The Status Quo for Hole-in-the-Wall is Not Possible.

I was surprised to see a majority of people responding negatively to the Alberni Valley News poll on making the Hole-in-the-Wall a tourist attraction. A convincing majority are against it. But a poll on something like this is mostly answered by people who haven’t given the issue any thought, or looked into the issues. Still, it is daunting. Something needs to be done whether the majority is against it or not.

I Googled Hole-in-the-Wall to see how many sites promoted it. I stopped counting sites mentioning Hole-in-the-Wall at 50. They include, the Chamber of Commerce, a three hiking apps, Trip Advisor, Flickr, several blogs, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and many, many more. There is even a Chinese language site featuring it. Word-of-mouth is also an important factor in the popularity of the site. Closing the attraction without notifying all these sites would result in a lot of unhappy visitors, and damage to Port Alberni’s fragile reputation for tourism.

Crowds start in April and go into October at both entrances. They are regularly plugged up with vehicles, with the overflow going into Coombs Country Candy. Erosion, trampling and garbage are also an issue.

Ask the RCMP how many accidents, near misses, and incidents have happened around Coombs Country Candy, and the Black Powder Range Road. Then there are the people who find no parking and park at the candy store. Then they scamper across the highway, some taking chances with the traffic because of their impatience.

It’s not just the Hole-in-the-Wall that is the attraction, although it is a pretty good name. Across the road we have a lookout, a trail network, downhill mountain bike courses, and a starting point for ATV adventures. Also, Coombs Country Candy is definitely part of the attraction. It is a wonderful spot to relax after any of these activities. The owner, Murray Lawlor, tells me it is very much a part of the success of his business. But he worries about the risks that people who park at Coombs Country Candy take when they cross the highway.

It is high time that the Regional District, Mosaic, Highways, and Lawlor sit down and come up with a plan. Investment is necessary. To Mosaic, I say that there may be a way to lease some property and therefore get some revenue from the land, perhaps from admission charges. Those same admission charges could also pay for the investment in parking, way-finding, and maintenance. Perhaps also, a resort developer could work with the parties to add value to the area.

It is easy to throw out ideas. Perhaps some of them will spark an idea in someone’s head, who is better positioned than I am to make things happen. Leading public opinion is an important quality of leadership. I have to trust that our leaders agree. But I think something has to change, because the alternative is increased degradation of the attraction itself.