OP/ED: Take the country out of the Boundary
When looking for inspiration for columns it is sometimes the little things that keep coming up. This week I saw the name “Boundary Country” in several locations with the main one being the recent new visitor’s guide that has been distributed across the province. We live in the Boundary region – which by the way Wikipedia claims was named because of the border and we all know they’re never wrong – and somewhere along the way the name got morphed into Boundary Country. Of course it was when it was all the rage to call a region a country but really folks, get over it. The Kootenays stopped using Kootenay Country at least eight years ago. While I know that the Boundary region is not exactly leaders in tourism, it is time to call it what it is. Whenever local business owners and interested citizens get together to talk tourism and branding (marketing identity not the cattle type you would associate with ‘country’) the first features people bring up in our region are heritage and outdoor activities. And now with the development of the Christina Living Arts Centre, and a focus on the finer side of life, arts and culture are being pushed. Are you with me so far? Have I even mentioned cows? For me that is what ‘country’ brings to mind – a bunch of ranches with cattle and people on horseback. Mind you, I know that there are a dedicated bunch of horsey-type people around the area, but I’m talking about the overall image of ‘country.’ I think that Kamloops and the Cariboo region win the ‘country’ image hands down. They are all about cattle and they certainly succeed in selling it. So why do we persist in branding ourselves country? It was an interesting attempt in the 90’s to try to identify the region but it just doesn’t fit the area or the current marketing trends. Part of the reason for the second word is the discomfort with the name of the region. It just isn’t sexy. Come to the Boundary. The what?? You know the little patch of land between Osoyoos and the Kootenays. Oh, that place – don’t you have a lot of Doukhobours there? I can just see the frustration as people try to describe the area. And why is it that everyone knows where Osoyoos and the Kootenays are anyway? Probably because they were never the poor second cousin when it came to marketing. The Boundary has always been tucked under the Okanagan or the Kootenays and hasn’t had the years (or funding) for marketing their own name that other areas of the province have. While we still need to work with these larger groups to succeed, it is time to own our name and our area. Believe me I know how difficult it is to work with the name Boundary – have you ever tried to name a news agency with the word Boundary? But it can be done. Although focus groups done years ago by the regional economic development services said that the Boundary does not test market well, adding ‘country’ doesn’t help, it only makes us sound like we’re in a different world.
Let’s own it folks, and let’s stand tall and proud and market the heck out of it! Unless someone feels like leading the charge to change the region’s name to Kettle Valley we need to be who we are. And we’re certainly not all riding the back country hustling cattle!