The man who started the whale-watching industry in Victoria a decade ago and the Tsartlip Indian band were honoured Wednesday for contributions to local tourism.
Alex Rhodes, who started Seacoast Expeditions in 1990 with a single inflatable, received Tourism Victoria’s 17th annual Miracle award at the organization’s annual meeting.
Named for a wounded killer whale which Sealand tried to nurse back to health, the award recognizes “extraordinary effort and memorable achievement,” said presenter Paul Miller.
Miller, who started the Victoria Harbour Ferry Co. at the same time, met Rhodes that first year and remembered standing around with him waiting for customers to discover their respective marine operations.
“Alex never let up and by the power of his will and the persuasiveness of his passion for what he was doing, he made his idea succeed,” said Miller.
From Rhodes’ original boat, the industry has grown to about 45 whale-watching boats and an estimated 100,000 customers and more than 100 employees.
Miller said adventure tourism and whale-watching have been cited consistently by tourists in Tourism Victoria surveys as reasons for visiting Victoria.
Chief Curtis Olsen spoke for the Tsartlip band of Central Saanich, which received an environment award for its environmentally sensitive forestry practices in logging part of its reserve at Helen Point on Mayne Island.
“We never expected it that’s for sure,” said Olsen of the award. He said the band “had to go through a lot of struggles” to carry out the plan. “We heard a number of times it was going to be a black eye for tourism in British Columbia.”
The land on Mayne Island “means a lot to us and we just couldn’t go there and devastate the land.”
Presenter Stewart Johnston said the cutting plan, developed by forester John Masai, carefully preserved the scenic views for boaters and ferry passengers travelling through Active Pass and avoided any trees eagles and other birds and wildlife used. He said the Tsartlip’s selective logging showed that “forestry for profit, tourism and ecology can co-exist successfully.”
Brian Scroggs and Lyle Scroggs of Farmer Construction won the environment award for business for the careful way it built the Selkirk Trestle bridge on the Galloping Goose Trail. Johnston said they went as far as slinging “diapers” under the trestle to prevent the sawdust or board ends from wood treated with preservatives from entering the Gorge.
Bill Turner, co-founder of The Land Conservancy of B.C., won the environment award for an individual. TLC has helped preserve 79,000 acres of the province, Johnston said.
That includes the Abkhazi Gardens in Victoria and Matthews Point on Galiano Island.