Minter Gardens is the most beautiful and iconic Fraser Valley tourist attraction that you've never been to.
"You don't know how many times we've heard 'I've driven by so many times,'" Lisa Minter-Bustin told me Wednesday in a brief chat about this October's closure of the tourist attraction, which first opened 33 years ago and has been a go-to destination for tourists from far and wide.
"If we could just get you off the highway. . ."
Everyone has heard of Minter Gardens.
Everyone has driven by Minter Gardens, seen its iconic fountain and sign at the corner of Highways 1 and 9.
But too few local people get off the highway or stop en route to or from Harrison Hot Springs or other places east.
So with that all said, I have a confession to make: The closure of Minter Gardens is my fault.
I'm sorry. I'm the most guilty in all of this. I've lived here for seven years and I only visited Minter Gardens Tuesday afternoon for the first time ever, after we found out officially that it would close in October of this year.
Of course, it's not entirely my fault, but it is the fault of people like me who love where we live, have people come visit us who love to be here, and then don't drop a few dollars at the businesses that, at least in part, make it great to live/be here.
The situation reminds me of some businesses that have come and gone in downtown Chilliwack.
As I said, I've only been in the city since 2006, but the brief existence of Evangeline's at the site of what was the Mill Street CafÃ© and is now the Harvest CafÃ© is a good example.
Evangeline's was a cool little eatery with gourmet, accessible food, walls that were used like a rotating art gallery for local creative types, all with a constant stream of bands performing live on weekends.
This was an awesome place that could have, should have helped spur the revitalization of downtown.
But no one went. I remember chatting with co-owner Jamaal who lamented this after the closure was announced. People didn't support the restaurant and then many of those same people grumbled when it closed. I was one of them.
We can all be guilty of wanting certain types of businesses to be located in certain areas, talk to our neighbours about them when they exist, not spend money at them and then shake our heads when they are gone.
But the bottom line will always be dollars.
We have to put our money where our mouths are, visit attractions that we tell others about, eat at restaurants that we want to see in our neighbourhoods and shop at stores that we think make our community better.
Of course, businesses themselves need to adapt as well.
Harvest CafÃ© seems to be doing just fine on Mill Street and draws in quite a crowd over the lunch hour. Part of the problem with Evangeline's, it seems to me, was that it was filling an un-needed niche for evening meals in a not-yet-populated downtown.
It was too cool. So if we love the fact that Minter Gardens, a world-class and world-loved show garden, is in our midst, we should have dropped a few dollars and visited from time to time.
Not enough of us did and we may just regret it now.
At least we have until October.
© Copyright 2013