Cornelia Naylor
The Chilliwack Times
Harrison Hot Springs mayor says internationally recognized eco-label would be great for village
 
Visitors to Harrison Hot Springs beachfront could soon see fountains in the lagoon, lifeguards on duty and signs displaying the latest information about the lake’s and lagoon’s water quality.
The changes are part of the village’s bid to earn its beaches the right to fly the Blue Flag, an internationally recognized eco-label for beaches and marinas that uphold strict human health and environmental criteria outlined by the Denmark-based Foundation for Environmental Education.
Village council voted Monday to pursue Blue Flag certification, making Harrison the first candidate community for the program in the province.
“Ultimately this is going to identify us internationally as well as regionally and across Canada as a place that is very quality in terms of tourism and the lake and the beach itself,” said Harrison mayor Ken Becotte.
The beachfront, which sees more than one million visitors every year, was assessed by Canada’s Blue Flag operator, Environmental Defence, in June, and village council was presented with the results Monday.
For full-fledged certification, something Harrison hopes to earn for at least one of its beaches by next spring, the village will have to live up to Blue Flag’s 32 beach criteria, which cover everything from water quality, environmental education and sustainable management to safety provisions and services for beach users.
According to the report, some Harrison beaches already meet most of the criteria for certification, and village officials said implementing the changes to meet the rest won’t require any major expenditure.
“For us it seems like a no-brainer and a wonderful marketing and promotional opportunity,” said Harrison Hot Springs community and economic development officer Andre Isakov. “Some of those things are something that we should be doing anyways. We should have full recycling facilities on the beach anyways. We should be doing more water quality tests anyways, and we should be making the results available right there on the beach and on our website.”
Of the seven recommendations in the report, the one about water quality took up the most space.
Harrison’s front-runner for Blue Flag certification, the western outer lagoon beach (also called Harrison Lake Beach) has been tested by Fraser Health for years with excellent results, but to secure Blue Flag certification, the village is being asked to increase the number of test sites along the shore and to up the frequency of the tests.
A more difficult task will be to get the water quality in the lagoon up to standard.
“The lagoon’s water quality results are too variable and other biological parameters (i.e. swimmer’s itch) too contested for consideration for Blue Flag status at this time,” states the report. “For the lagoon to join the program, water quality will have to demonstrate consistent improvement for at least three years, and the absence of Schistosomatidae (swimmer’s itch causing parasites) confirmed.
Beaches can remain in the candidacy phase of Blue Flag certification for up to three years, but Harrison hopes to be flying the Blue Flag over at least Harrison Lake Beach and possibly Rendall Park Beach by next summer with plans to bring their other beaches into the program in the next few years.