West Kootenay Provincial Parks get New Operators
It was a no-brainer for Anne Pigeon.
After 24 years in the ski biz, taking care of indoor operations, marketing and sales for Whitewater Ski Resort, running a few provincial parks with her husband Rick is right up her alley.
BC Parks awarded the Pigeons a 10 year contract to operate six West Kootenay provincial parks this fall and they’re already hard at it, taking over for long time operators Ross Burrell and Mike Shoniker who retired this year.
“We were looking for something new, the kids have all fledged and we have led different careers. This is an opportunity for us to do something together, to be our own boss…and when this idea came up, we knew it was right up our alley,” said Pigeon.
“This is just awesome.”
The Pigeons—along with their son Ben—will be operating six parks in the West Kootenay: Davis, Lost Ledge, Syringa, Champion Lakes, Kokanee Creek and Grohman Narrows.
Their enterprise will employ about 30 seasonal staff with a range of responsibilities from maintenance, customer service and 24/7 security.
Anne will take the lead on customer service, staffing, tourism networking and events, while her husband and son take care of the mechanical and carpentry responsibilities.
“We compliment each other very well,” she said. Both her husband and son are heavy duty mechanics. She brings a wealth of tourism savvy from her work with Kootenay Rockies Tourism, Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism, Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Industry of British Columbia.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” she said. “We have promised the government we will manage the resource. But there are a lot of parallels between the ski industry and parks.”
Key to being involved in both is an understanding of pre-planning and making decisions on the fly, she said.
“There’s a list a mile long of things to do, but we have to remember each one of the parks is different,” said Pigeon.
But there is one thing they all have in common: when the parks season opens, “it’s showtime!” she said.
This first year the Pigeons are “going to pick the low lying fruit,” she said. “We will maintain the status quo to see who the players are and the operating procedures.”
“We’ve had a high bar set for us,” she said of former operators Burrell and Shoniker. “They’ve done a great job and there’s going to be a lot to learn.”
But in the future, look for events on Canada Day, BC Day, maybe even Family Day in February in the parks.
“We want to engage the community,” said Pigeon. This includes developing school programs, use of the parks in the shoulder seasons and supporting the interpretative center at Kokanee.
“The guest experience is going to be our number one priority. We bring a long love of parks and we’re doing work we absolutely love,” she said.
As for Shoniker and Burrell, Shoniker is out of range somewhere skiing in Banff, and Burrell said he’d be tending his corner store.
“But I’ll probably be cycling more in the summer and skiing more in the winter.”